Sunday, August 20, 2017


How delightful, this shared passion for a galactic alignment during a time when my country rates an “F” in shared alignments. Tomorrow’s rare solar eclipse, with totality over a large swathe of America, will give our torn country a brief respite from manifesting our uniquely rich tapestry of dysfunction, aesthetic deficit, limited vocabulary, and preponderance of bad food. While I love the kumbaya togetherness this event inspires, I can’t help but notice the more ridiculous aspects of the obsession people have developed for this upcoming two minutes of daytime complete disappearance of the sun, which, I might point out, people could also accomplish by hiding under the covers. However, I will (of course) participate in appreciating the eclipse, by standing in my own front yard and watching the light change.

Yesterday, friends driving deep into the wilds of northern Oregon to find their happy spot in the Band of Totality posted a photo on Facebook of the bumper-to-bumper traffic surrounding them on Highway 95 with the caption, “Why are we doing this, again?” Exactly. I’m glad I decided to stay at home, where we will experience an 80% eclipse. At my age, 80% works well. I’m skeptical about 100% of anything these days, since moderation seems fundamental to longevity. Except when it comes to dark chocolate, which one can never get enough of. (Did I just end that sentence in a preposition? I might have a mild case of pre-eclipsia.)

Apparently people living in the Band of Totality have publicized rental space in their homes, yards, and fields for eclipse-followers to use when they travel to the 100% region. For $1000, an eclipse-follower can obtain a place to pitch a tent in a field in the Band of Totality in Nebraska. Access to a restroom costs $2000. Prices are higher in the Band of Totality in South Carolina, where enterprising people know more about how to make a buck. Every outhouse in the Band of Totality in Kentucky (the outhouse capital of the country) has been rented. I predict that the next up-and-coming musical group of the year will call themselves The Band of Totality. They will wear eclipse glasses to perform, and their first album will have a completely black cover (kind of like the Beatles’ White Album only in reverse).

I worry about dogs. I hope that people with dogs know how to prevent their dogs from looking straight-on at the sun. Dogs in the wild probably know how to act in an eclipse, but perhaps not domesticated dogs. I especially worry about people protecting service dogs, since it would be a catastrophe if service dogs lost their eyesight. Then we would have the blind leading the blind, which seems particularly dangerous in the kitchen. The best plan is probably to lock all dogs in the laundry room. I hope people with dogs think of that and have a laundry room. I have cats, and a cat could beat a dog at chess on any given day, so I figure that with their super-intelligence, cats will know not to look directly at the sun. But what if the eclipse creates an animal-impact force-field that causes cats to forget themselves and act like dogs? It would distress me if my cats suffered negative effects from the eclipse and began to drop sticks at my feet for me to throw for them to fetch, roll in every mound of stinky goo they can find, meow loudly at the UPS driver, and ask for a Frisbee for Christmas.

I wouldn’t complain if wild turkeys and opossums looked at the eclipsed sun and lost their eyesight. I retract that wish. It’s cruel for me to wish blindness on innocent wild creatures. Maybe the eclipse could cause them to develop a selective form of impairment that causes them to lack the ability to see or recognize grapes. Then they would stop eating mine on the vine even before they ripen. (Dream on, right?) I wonder if the flowers will close up as if at night. Will hummingbirds fly backwards? Will my dishwasher spontaneously turn itself on? Just in case, I’ll fill it with dirty dishes and soap beforehand. I hope everything metal in my house doesn’t get sucked to the refrigerator door.

Barring any bizarre unexpected occurrences, we have thought things through and are well-prepared. My husband even obtained a pair of eclipse glasses so that we can watch the event without burning our eyes. I hope he got 3D eclipse glasses. Wait, real life is always 3D, isn’t it? I saw a sign on the door at the public library stating that they have no more eclipse glasses. I didn’t realize that there had been a run on eclipse glasses at the library. Fortunately I missed that. I don’t know how my husband would have explained it to my children if I had died in an eclipse-glasses stampede at the library.

If you failed to obtain eclipse glasses (what were you waiting for? next time think ahead), you can make a device that will allow you (and your dog) to watch the eclipse safely. I have seen many schematics and architectural drawings of eclipse-viewing devices online. Just google the name “Rube Goldberg.” You can make a simple eclipse-viewing device using a paperclip, cardboard box, four safety pins, tennis racket, silly putty, two coconuts, baseball cap, standard box of Legos, floor fan, and three feathers from the Indonesian yellow short-beaked Doody-bird. A picture of a viewing contraption that you can put together handily in your basement appears below. If you correctly assemble this device, you should seriously consider applying for a job at NASA.

Well, bring it on. Our love and awe, as humans, for this wondrous planet, lifts my spirit and fills me with gratitude for the beauty and magnificence of the natural world. The excitement about the total solar eclipse allows us to collectively transcend our differences and ongoing strife in this country for just a moment as we step back, take a breath, and join in our shared appreciation of this amazing galaxy that surrounds us, with forces beyond our comprehension. I have not lost sight of that. Pass the eclipse glasses.

Here is a picture of a device you can make at home to view the solar eclipse safely.

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