Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Eclipse 2024

The best part for me about writing this blog is having some sort of record of things our family did, and how I felt at the time. For this month's post I decided to write about the eclipse, which sent me back into my archives to read about the last one we went to see seven years ago. We missed the totality, but had a great road trip, and we discussed the possibility of getting together again to see the next solar eclipse way off in the future in the year 2024.

We could barely imagine that day when Quinn would be 17 instead of 10. We didn't have any idea where Aden or Mona might be. We hoped to stay with my Uncle John and Aunt Charlotte in Ohio, but who knew what life would be like in seven years?

Eclipse 2017
Eclipse 2024
As it turns out, life is good in 2024! And everything about this eclipse trip was better. Ian is retired from the Army, so was able to join us this time, even though he had to follow a day behind us in a second car so he could still make an event in The Dells. Aden flew in from college. John and Charlotte moved to a new house in town that was set up with visitors like us in mind. My mom was able to join us, too, along with a pair of Charlotte's friends and their adorable dog Kirby, who became fast friends with Domino. They had a good time at the dog park together.

I was able to get some scroll carving done at the kitchen counter, and a friend of mine (and his sister) were even able to drive out and meet us the day before the eclipse to pick up (for delivery in Washington DC) the violins I will have on display in the upcoming Celebrating Women Luthiers exhibit.
We were treated to wonderful food in my uncle and aunt's home. Their house has a nice little courtyard, and we had perfect viewing in their back yard. The weather was beautiful. We saw cousins and played games and had a great time. So as just a family trip the whole event was a big success.

The remarkable thing about the eclipse itself, is that it really is something you have to experience. Photos and videos are interesting, and people can try and describe it, but none of it matches what it actually felt like.

It was brighter for longer than I expected. Even when more than half of the sun was covered, there wasn't any perceivable change in the light. If you couldn't see it with the special glasses, you wouldn't know it was happening. Then in the last couple of minutes the light got very strange. It was like evening light in terms of brightness, but the shadows were all wrong. Evening light comes with long shadows, and these shadows were all short. It reminded me of old movies where they wanted it to look like nighttime, but they had to film in the day and use some sort of filter. That doesn't look like real night, and this didn't either.

We felt the temperature drop. I think the birds got quiet, but I don't remember for sure. I know they seemed noisy when it was over. We saw a planet or a star appear. The street lights came on. We could look straight up at the sun, and when we put our glasses back on we could see a small red dot peeking out past one edge of the moon.

Aden pointed out during totality that it was like sunset on every part of the horizon. That was wild. We all spun around and took in how weird that was. And when totality passed, Ian directed us toward the shadow moving along its path like a storm going through without any real clouds. That was fascinating.

We listened to the neighborhood cheer. We marveled at how fast four minutes can go. The eclipse was like nothing else I've ever witnessed. We're already planning to gather for the next one in twenty years.

I had a rehearsal the following evening, so I got up early to make it back to Milwaukee in time. Mona and I went together, with the thought being Ian and Quinn could take their time and give Domino another chance to play at the dog park. But it turned out without me there, she didn't want to be there, so they all headed home. Mona and I joked during a couple of traffic jams that maybe the other car would beat us, but then they did. By a good half hour or more! But Mona and I did stop in Lima Ohio to capture this very special sign, with probably the worst kerning we've ever seen, so it all balanced out.

So there are natural wonders, and things that just make you wonder. (And laugh.)

The eclipse reminded me of how few things we appreciate in a specific place and time nowadays. We're used to seeing most things on our own schedules, and finding ways to visit people and places remotely. Watching the moon pass in front of the sun from the vantage point of my own speck of a body in the midst of our solar system was exciting and humbling and beautiful. I hope I'm around to do it again with people I love next time it happens.

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