The Transient Light & Collective Catharsis of the Solar Eclipse

We wake bright and early to the sounds of roosters crowing, dogs barking, and pigs oinking in the distance. We had camped overnight after driving to a farm in the middle of nowhere–Madras, Oregon–in the path of totality for the morning’s eclipse. Millions of people have traveled for this once-in-a-lifetime event.

I make an aeropress with a coffee I bought from Blue Bottle on the way up to Oregon and enjoy it while reading a book, waiting for the rest of the farm to awaken for a life-changing event.

When the eclipse begins, I as watch the sliver of black begins traversing the powerful sun through my protective eye glasses. Slowly people become interested in the small crescent of black making its way over the giver of life in the sky. Nothing in the light or emotions of the spectators changes just yet, but the as the intensity of the sun wanes, the colors of the green field and mountains in the distance become more prominent, their shadows defined.

Behind us is Mt. Jefferson, covered in an ominous grey haze from nearby forest fires. I thought the smoke may hinder the experience, but on the contrary, it provides an even more apocalyptic feeling as the moon makes its way across the sun’s bright light.

Finally, after about an hour of watching the tiny sliver grow into a black crescent moon, the light begins to dim exponentially. Marveling at the process, the group of campers watches the 360 degree sunset first in awe, then in nervous anxiety. All at once, the world goes dark and the light left becomes completely foreign to us. As the eclipse reaches totality, everyone is propelled into a state of blissful wonder while blood-red is poured over the distant mountains and a brand new celestial being emerges.

It is a fully black perfect circle that is being courted by the dance of amorphous, brilliant translucent light that shifts and moves constantly for the short duration of the total eclipse. We take off our protective eye-glasses and this is what we see: an alien being shifting and radiating solar flares that are visible as they dance in a random pattern around the perfect black sphere.

The brilliant white light is the corona of the sun, the hottest and brightest portion of the star that is only visible during an eclipse. The sun gives us light, warmth, and life, and we can feel its lack here, the world goes cold instantly without waiting the seven minutes for the light to get here. Above, stars and planets are easily visible. Dogs are fighting. People are yelping. The world around us is in disarray.

The anxiety starts to fade as everyone here experiences a collective transcendence and are taken by the astronomical beauty, reminding us we are tiny specs made from the very star dust of exploded suns. I think about how ancient cultures worshiped the sun, documented eclipses, and paved the way for us to know exactly when these events happen.

The whole farm goes through a cathartic experience, and when we all get the word from an audio schedule telling us when the total eclipse will end, we put on our protective eye glasses and burst into joy as if it were the first sunlight we ever saw.

Everyone at the farm becomes more closely intimate with each other. People who didn’t know each other are now friends. The dogs, fighting during the eclipse, are now calm, and the physicality of being taken completely out of our natural state is like nothing you can describe. For a moment, we experience the same astronomical event and changed us all; the light something no photo can capture. We all have too much to say, and nothing to say at all.

 


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