Tuesday, August 22, 2017


Oh happy day!


Why the eclipse was a bust

I don't know whether to be in awe, or just pissed off. 

We had over 80% of the eclipse today, but I assumed it wouldn't amount to much. I was told it wouldn't be very dramatic where we lived, no blackness descending at mid-morning. Nothing much to see. I did go outside at "eclipse time" and was freaked out by the dimmer-switch on the sun as it hung mutely in a muted blue sky. 

The light was just - wrong. It wasn't darker or dimmer or anything I can describe, just wrong. Everything looked weird, as if the sun's light was filtered through a huge chunk of amber, or maybe five million tons of lemon jell-o. I noticed the shadows didn't look right. They definitely didn't. Look. Right. 

I went back inside the house, freaked out, thinking it was just my slightly wonky perception kicking in. God knows it has happened before. But I felt uneasy all day - what IS this, anyway? Why can't I leave this alone? There was nothing to see, was there? I'm not an observatory kind of person, I don't stand on hilltops with weird glasses on. But I kept looking on news web sites to get some good footage, and got nothing, basically. One eclipse is exactly like another, with NASA yapping on and on and on. 

The only interesting parts were interviews with people in crowds who would suddenly sort of disappear as a blanket of shadow dropped over their faces. The strange stuff with light - darkness at the break of noon - it was all a little too much. It was hard to watch, even on TV. I found it more disturbing than awesome. 

The experience I had in the morning kept replaying, except now I wished I hadn't been such a coward and had stayed out there for a while. I could have filmed it, couldn't I? Probably, yes. I might have even captured that bizarrely muted light. But oddly enough, though I take video of everything that interests me, it didn't even cross my mind.

Then I'm on some Facebook page - Dan Rather's news page or something, almost irrelevant! - and I discover that those weird shadows that disturbed me so much are actually a "thing". Tiny spaces through tree leaves function as pinhole cameras, resulting in thousands (millions!) of crescents of light cast on the ground: actual images of the eclipse, happening in real time. All sorts of people have posted photos of this - ordinary people, not photographers, just walking down the street or looking in their back yard. 

Which I could have done, also, but didn't, because I did not know there was anything there to look at! Or looked right at it, and did not understand. I had to resort to someone else's YouTube footage to make these gifs.

So you see, folks, you were supposed to look DOWN, not up! But there was almost nothing on TV or anywhere else about what the eclipse would do to the natural world.  People mentioned how cold it was, how street lights came on, etc., but mostly the focus was on astronomy and people yelling "There it goes, look at that, whoo-hoo!".

Darkness at the break of noon. In spite of my practically missing the whole thing, it had a very creepy effect on me. This leaf-camera thing - who knew? I could have been out there taking video of the whole thing! The weird, fuzzy, double-vision look of the shadows on the ground now make sense to me, but I didn't understand what I was seeing, didn't expect it, so I missed it. One could miss an entire lifetime that way, not noticing, or being afraid of the only stuff that really matters.