August 21, 2017
MADRAS, OR — Monday’s solar eclipse atop Oregon’s high desert started at sunrise, when thousands of eclipse hunters including myself looked to the west with concern, noticing the tinge of smoke that filled the sky from a nearby wildfire.
But prevailing winds pushed it away as the sun rose, setting the stage for an unencumbered view from within the 70-mile Path of Totality that stretched across this country.
While standing on the ground in those last few moments there is a tension in the air, like something big is about to happen.
The group I’m standing next to at SolarFest can see shadows slowly washing over the land. I get goosebumps all over my arms — I doubt I’m the only one.
The temperature quickly drops, like an entire day’s change in high to low temperature is being fast-forwarded.
And then this moment happens: the universe suddenly turns off the light and we are left standing in a gigantic moon shadow, awed by the sight of the sun’s fiery corona.
At this very moment, it’s safe to take off our eclipse-watching glasses and view this mysterious black hole sun.
Another look out along the horizon and I can see light advancing to return us from the eerie nightscape back to mid-morning.
There’s ooooh’s and aaaah’s in the large crowd. “Amazing!” someone shouts as we’re all left stupefied for a few more seconds.
And then our brief time in the Path of Totality ends just as quickly as it began. Next time it will be somewhere else, maybe in a far-flung land where others will have this same shared experience that thousands in this town and millions across the United States were able to share today.
It’s that shared experience that made being in the Path of Totality so unique.