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Total Eclipse of the Sun

My brother, his wife, and The Total Stranger

Today there will be a total solar eclipse! And, weather permitting, it will be viewable across a nice swath of the U.S. A great occasion and a thing well worth viewing. I won’t be able to see it this time around, but I did host a little watch party on August 21, 2017, when we were able to see the totality right from my backyard.

I invited my brother, his wife and my friend Bean to come and stay. Surprisingly, my son had called from New York to say a young woman he knew had been clamoring to see it and so he asked if she could come here, too. I agreed reluctantly, since our house is tiny but I thought, Cole’s friend . . . When she got in touch and I’d said yes, I told my son his friend was coming. “Oh, she’s not my friend,” he said. He’d met her briefly somewhere and the subject had come up. After that my friend Bean and I privately referred to her as The Total Stranger (TTS for short).

Oliver got out his cool telescope.

I have no photos of the sun/moon, as the ones I did take were pretty pathetic. Anyway, the few moments of totality were so stunning, so otherworldly, as to toss out all thoughts of photo-taking. One wanted just to have eyes on the sky for those brief seconds.

A total solar eclipse and a partial one can barely even be compared. The totality, even though you’re expecting it, is shocking, amazing, and sudden. The natural world’s response is immediate, too, as insects immediately change the course of their singing and chattering.

I’m not even sure why I’ve chosen to write about this, as words fail me. Look to The Marginalian for a reference to Annie Dillard’s words, instead. She wrote, “Usually it is a bit of a trick to keep your knowledge from blinding you. But during an eclipse it is easy. What you see is much more convincing than any wild-eyed theory you may know.” Please do click the link above for more, though.

To celebrate the occasion, I baked an eclipse cake!

I hope if you missed out on the 2017 event you’ll get to see this one. It’s a once in a lifetime treat (even if you get to see it twice). You might like to check out the very fun They Might Be Giants song, “Why Does the Sun Shine?” before or after. I played it more than once during our little party, for the edification of family, friend, and Total Stranger.

Virginia Woolf wrote, on seeing a total eclipse in 1927: “How can I express the darkness? It was a sudden plunge, when one did not expect it; being at the mercy of the sky; our own nobility; the druids; Stonehenge; and the racing red dogs; all that was in one’s mind.”

Well, I am no Virginia Woolf, but I’ve been pondering the greatness of the words “totality” and “eclipse” lately. I’m hoping to write something pithy about the various implications of the word “totality” that eclipses my writing here, for next week’s letter. Wink wink, see what I did there?

“The clouds I can handle, but I can’t fight with an eclipse.” ― Stephenie Meyer, Eclipse

“In the deep sky where there had been a sun, we saw a ring of white silver; a smoking ring, and all the smokes were silver, too; gauzy, fuming, curling, unbelievable. And who had ever seen the sky this color! Not in the earliest morning or at twilight, never before had we seen or dreamed this strange immortal blue in which a few large stars now sparkled as though for the first time in creation.” ― Elizabeth Enright, Doublefields

“I’d seen a great many partial eclipses, but a partial eclipse has the same relation to a total eclipse as flirting with a man does to marrying him.” – Annie Dillard

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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