Tuesday, August 08, 2017
The Zone of Totality
In 13 days a total eclipse of the Sun will make a path across the country from Oregon to South Carolina. The path of totality is also known as the Zone of Totality. It is in that Zone that Darryl, Lee, Karen, Steve, David, and Carl will join me for the event. This will be the second Total Eclipse of the Sun I will experience, the last one being in March of 1970 in Savannah when we gathered at 24 West Gaston, our home across from Forsyth Park. Then, it became dark as night, pigeons swooped hither and thither through the oaks and park, dogs howled, and cars stopped in amazement (there was no internet then). We are hoping for a dramatic eclipse at the Dillard House where we shall be prepared with special glasses and a filtered telescope.
Eclipses are known for their association with war and catastrophe. It was on August 21, 1914 that Europe had a total eclipse, Czeslaw Milosz experienced it. We shall see what this one portends.
Here is a passage from my novel describing the experience of a Total Eclipse. It is based on the actual experience in 1970:
Going from room to room, David began urging everyone outside. "Even if we can't see the sun, it'll still be dark and weird," he coaxed.
The sky turned an ominous gray, as if a storm were gathering. A hundred or so people had gathered in the park across Gaston. The clouds were still thin, however, and the shrinking disk of the sun was almost visible behind the moving veil.
Then the darkness came. A black shadow fell over the city. Street lamps came on. People gasped. Pigeons took flight and all of the birds in the park swarmed into confused arcs above the trees. Dogs howled. Cars stopped in the middle of Whittaker and Gaston streets. A cold wind whipped through the oaks.
David shivered. He suddenly saw his life in eclipse. His love for Eddie, Charlotte's attraction, Susan's empathy, and Dr. Landry, whom he had met only months before, were the celestial objects swirling in wildly elliptical orbits around one another. His college degree, his opportune job at the Carnegie Library, his family, and the places he inhabited became a spinning cluster threatening to collapse into a black hole. "There is something strange happening to me," David whispered , "and this is just the beginning."
Landry descended the steps of his porch. It was mid-day. It was night. How was this possible? Like David, he felt that the reason guiding his life was ruptured. Anything was possible. His life until this day was no longer a guide for what would come. Like the sparrows and pigeons, Landry’s mind was circling in arcs that went nowhere. He needed the sun to return. It had to come back, regardless of what new order it would bring.
Landry fell to his knees on the concrete walkway. He raised his arms toward heaven. "I believe," he yelled. "I believe."
The darkness lasted three minutes. The returning light dazzled the crowd. Cars started up along the two streets. Charlotte and Susan stared at Landry from the porch, considering whether they should attempt to help him up. Before they could act, he had risen and composed himself.
"Is that all there is?" asked Eddie as he and David returned to the house.
"What more did you want?" David replied, annoyed by Eddie’s failure to be impressed.
" I wanted to see the eclipse itself; the corona, the moon and all that." Eddie complained. " Now I suppose we'll have to watch it on t.v."