In the midst of the HF20 #clusterfork, I want to tell you all a story. It has pictures too, I know you like pictures. Ready? Here we go.
Last fall was a weird time in my life. I was in the throes of heartbreak, experiencing a distinct sense of loneliness and separation from my family (being that I'm living on the opposite side of the country from everything I've ever known). My job has an exceptionally busy summer season, and so once things started to slow down I was able to take three days to make a whirlwind trip up to Oregon. The goal:
See the total solar eclipse.
So I set out, my bed in the back of my car, a few pairs of clothes and a playlist of music. I drove long and fast, away from my problems. I drove until I couldn't drive any more, winding up somewhere north of Sacramento. Finding a spot on the side of the road where I could park overnight, I crawled into bed exhausted.
The next morning came around. The steady sound of passing traffic pulled me from sleep. I awoke to fog and muted colors. Brushing the sleep from my eyes, I flipped back into the front seat of my CR-V and took off again, continuing my northern expedition.
For those who have never been, the northern California mountains are a sight. I passed through a gap between peaks on the I-5 and the fog (clouds) lifted. I was greeted by the stunning sight of Mt. Shasta, the literal Lonely Mountain.
From there, the drive really started to blend together. Smoke from the season's wildfires obscured my view of the countryside. It wasn't until I reached Sutherlin that the wind started picking up and clearing out the smoke. From there, I took the 138 West across to the 101, following the Umpqua River as it wound through the mountainous countryside.
Now, bear in mind that up to this point I had never seen the western coast. I grew up in the east, routinely visiting the North Carolina beaches. When I reached Oregon's coast I was blown away by how different it was to anything that I had ever experienced.
The cold wind woke me up, renewing my energy and helping me finish the drive. I arrived in Newport during the early evening. For a gamer like me, the small coastal town reminded me instantly of Arcadia Bay in Life is Strange. I found dinner and then kicked my feet up for a little bit, enjoying the cold saltwater air and the bustle of the crowd who were all there for the same reasons I was.
Later that evening, I settled in for the night in a Starbucks parking lot. An odd place to sleep, I know. That night, the anticipation kept me awake for a long time but I finally drifted into fitful dreams.
Finally, the next morning I awoke to the sounds of a growing crowd. Others had gathered around me in the early morning hours, packing out the Starbucks parking lot. I got dressed and exited my car, engaging in casual conversation with others who had journeyed far and wide to be in Oregon for the eclipse. The furthest I had met were from Toronto.
I had borrowed some solar paper from friends of mine back home, and so I watched through my camera as the sun slowly began to darken during the moon’s transit. You wouldn’t have been able to tell that anything was happening, at least not until the crescent-shaped shadows started appearing. At that point, the daylight started to noticeably dim.
We watched and watched until the last rays of sunlight disappeared behind the moon, and then the moment we all had been waiting for.
I can’t under-state this. The total solar eclipse is the most dramatic natural event I’ve ever seen. For the world to be bright with sunlight one moment and then in the snap of your fingers- snap- go dark like someone flipped a light-switch, it really can’t be described in words or photos or video. The world stops, the night-time creatures begin to call, a cold chill sweeps across the face of the earth in the shadow of the moon. You’ve got to experience it for yourself.
For those of us gathered in Newport, there was a moment of awestruck silence that reigned. A brief moment where the entire world went silent, our jaws collectively dropped. And then, I remember this clearly, someone began to cheer. Overcome by the emotion and majesty of it all, little by little a roaring applause grew in the crowd. Everyone was cheering for something, to someone, and I’m not sure if many of them knew who. But I do.
And then, like waking up from a vivid dream it was over. The moon rolled away and the sun’s rays returned, bathing the world in its warmth once again. We all conversed, exchanged contact information so that we could send each other photos and then got back into our cars and went about our lives.
I felt many things on the drive back home, but the one that stands out in my mind was a distinct sense of connection with those around me. Many people, from many different backgrounds, races, cultures and walks of life had all gathered together in the briefest moment of shared experience. In the face of an ever widening gap between us and our neighbor (in America), we had found a time to lay it all aside and just experience life.
For that reason I will always remember the journey there and back again. I will always remember the day the world looked up in collective wonder. I will always remember the day the sky went black. I will always remember the Great American Eclipse.