Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Where Will YOU be for Totality?

I plan to squeeze in a short vacay and a few too many glasses of wine before the end of the world next week.  

Oh, you haven't heard? August 21st apparently. That's the day that the moon will eclipse the sun.

"Some" folks are predicting that the solar eclipse is a sign of the coming apocalypse. (Hey! "Eclipse" and "apocalypse" rhyme. Maybe that's where they got the idea.)  

Anyway, they are going to be SO disappointed to wake up on August 22nd and find things pretty much the same as the day before. 

Or, at least, that's my prediction. I'm proceeding on a reasonable assumption, based on having actually LIVED through a total eclipse of the sun, that another day is coming. Sure, anyone can get hit by a bus, which I suppose could justify taking precautions against armageddon, but are we all going to snuff it because of the moon passing between us and the sun? I'm guessing not.

And besides, the Calamity Crew are going to miss out on all the fun! (By the way, what WILL people who are expecting the end of days DO next Monday? I'm guessing they aren't shopping online for solar eclipse glasses and setting up folding chairs on the lawn, or organizing viewing parties along with the thousands of others staking out spots in one of the cities under the path of "Totality." Maybe they will all join hands and chant something, like, oh, I don't know, "We flunked Science. We flunked Science.") 

Already there is considerable buzz about the eclipse in the media. And why not? This is a huge deal — the first time in 99 years that the path of Totality will pass entirely within the US. 

Solar viewing glasses are sold out anywhere I've searched locally — and we'll only get 90% of the full show where we live. I can't even imagine the excitement where they will see 100% darkness.

But, wait a sec! Yes, I can! Because, as noted above, we lived through Totality! It was February 26, 1979. Winnipeg was directly under the path of a total solar eclipse. We were about to witness an honest to goodness, 100% coverage, full daytime-turns-to-night solar event, and the whole city was lit up about it. 

We had government-issued viewing goggles — scientist-approved, safety lenses mounted in cardboard — and some enterprising designer created handsome commemorative buttons that everyone wore for the week prior to the eclipse. 

For weeks afterward, the conversation each time you saw someone you knew, went something like this, "Where were you for Totality?" And you'd reply, "Oh, I was (fill in location)….wasn't it incredible? Where were you?" This awe-inspiring, celestial event united one and all.

And where were WE during Totality, you ask? 

Well, the Mr worked for Manitoba Theatre Centre and acted as company manager to escort a mime troupe on tour around rural Manitoba on a Greyhound. They stopped the bus at the side of the Trans-Canada and everyone tumbled out -- silently, of course — because it was a group of six mimes who were not speaking to each other either on-stage or off — a deeply ironic fact that has always amused me — and the Mr took this picture. Note the viewing glasses and the parkas. It was February in Manitoba — mind-numbingly cold.

As for me, I worked in a three-story, flat-roofed building downtown. Our entire office crew, along with about a hundred other folks, trooped up the fire exit stairs to the rooftop, a few minutes before the Big Moment. We all gazed skyward, freezing our Canadian toes and tuchuses off in the -30 degree air, and fell as silent as six touring mimes when the daytime twilight of the partial eclipse lapsed into darkness. The sun became replaced by a black hole in the sky, its corona glowing outward like radiant beams from a angel's halo. 

Where I was standing, only the snow on the roof lay behind me. I glanced back to witness two phenomena that we had been hearing about. Birds raced across the sky as though startled from their regularly programed activities, in a sudden hurry to find a roost as darkness set in. And then I saw the "shadow bands" — the ripple of the moon's shadow — a fleeting display scooting across the snow, perfectly contrasted on that white canvas. It was magical.

And so, I say to all those nut bar predictors of doom, "Get your heads out of your butts and enjoy this! This ultimate of astronomical displays! This most wondrous of natural phenomenon! You may not see another total eclipse of the sun in your lifetime — especially if there is no tomorrow!" 

Me? I have lunch plans for the 22nd. Ever the optimist.