I didn’t think anything of the eclipse. I knew it was going to be total in the ever-growing town of Corvallis, but it wasn’t really on my radar. I figured if my oldest brother, Mark, wasn’t clamoring to come here from Michigan to see it, it could not be all that much. He is into astronomy and spelunking – an extremist. It must be just something like a meteor shower.
Then, as the day approached, more and more terrible predictions kept coming about how many people were going to descend into our little three-county land here in the middle of the Willamette Valley. Last prediction was over a million people.
“It’s probably going to be like Y2K,” my boss said. I thought he was probably right. Then more of the stories started coming in, including one that Paul told me that he had read in the local paper how a man and his wife had planned and booked reservations (about $70 a night) in Corvallis a year ahead because it was not only the eclipse, it was their tenth anniversary. When they called closer to the date to confirm, they were told that the hotel had changed management and that reservation no longer applied and to get the same room now would cost $700.
I was not sure whether or not I should go into work that day as the road I take is a highway with lots of open fields that people could go to. As the day drew near, signs all along that highway popped up with offers of “Eclipse Camping.” I started getting more concerned. Finally, on the Friday before, I decided I would come in for half day. Mostly because I really wanted to see the thing with my own family.
All weekend Paul and I basically hid in the house. There were camp places along the way to our Mac Forest morning run, so we even hid from there!! Meanwhile, people really were piling in. All 300 camp sites offered at a park that was hosting a festival surrounding the eclipse were full and people were still coming in. In the end, there were a lot of people for sure, but it was not the rampaging hordes the press was predicting.
Meanwhile, we just ambled out to our deck and there it all was in clear view. We sat there with our coffee and muffins while others were jockeying for position. Pretty nice.
I had heard that the eclipse was going to happen at 10:30. Imagine my surprise when I realized that it just started at 10:30. Well, duh, I thought to myself. Was I thinking it was just suddenly going to JUMP in front of the sun? I think I watched too many Warner Brothers cartoons.
“It’s funny, I can’t see the moon,” said Paul as he looked up into the clear blue sky.
Well, duh, I thought. We need the sun to see the moon and the side we’re looking at now is the dark side. Ah, no astronomers are we.
Finally, with my funky little theater-3D-looking glasses, I saw the first tiny bit of the moon slip in front of the sun. It was not how I thought it would be. I thought there would be color and detail, but it was just a big orange disc with a smaller black disc moving into it.
So? So we just sat around, checking the sun with our glasses now and then. So it went for nearly an hour until suddenly, it was just about time for the full eclipse. Suddenly, the wind changed, it got dark and all the solar lights I have in the back yard lit up. Izzy lay next to the deck looking very worried, but she didn’t get really upset and hide. She just lay there looking a bit nervous.
When the moment came and everything really changed – including a sudden 10-degree or so drop in the temperature- our neighbor’s kids began cheering like it was the Times-Square count-down. It didn’t bother me, it actually made me happy that there were all of these people gathered outside for the same thing. One of those short-lived moments where you feel like maybe there is some hope for this little world.
Then, it’s over.
It was really more cool and interesting than I thought it would be. There was that moment where the total eclipse is over and there’s this sparkle like a cartoon diamond that is caused by something called Bailey’s Bits that tells you to quickly put your glasses back on.
Then, it was over.
The whole thing wasn’t really over before we were heading back inside and living our regular dull lives.
I actually did get in my car and allowed a whole 10 minutes extra for traffic to get to work when I said I would. I took what I thought would be the path less traveled. There they were. One long line of cars. Oh, well, I thought, maybe they are moving fast.
Fifteen minutes later when I had only made it a ¼ mile, I realized that it wasn’t going to happen. There is only one bridge out from Corvallis and it is fed just on the other side by the city “by-pass” where lots of other people were coming from.
I turned around and went home.