When the sun disappears


A total eclipse of the sun is something I haven't seen before. Well, really I still haven't. We had 95% totality in northern Colorado. I had planned to drive to Wyoming to see the sun completely disappear and the planets come out, but we just returned from a long road trip last night and the Colorado Department of Transportation was warning of 8-12 hour traffic jams on I-25 this afternoon as everyone comes home from viewing. I wasn't up for it.

So the collage of images below is what I could see from my backyard.

The image in the center was double at near-totality because I took the block off the second lens. These are all photos taken of the sun projected onto black cardstock through the lens of my binoculars.

August 21, 2017 solar eclipse from Fort Collins, Colorado, USA.

I have always been leery about looking at the sun (perhaps because my ophthalmologist Dad told me, "Don't look at the sun! You'll go blind!" And though as a pre-teen I loved reading stories of people overcoming sensory or physical limitations, I really didn't want a guide dog that badly). It has been a busy summer and I never got around to ordering eclipse glasses. Since I am not a welder either, I was left with some DIY options for eclipse viewing. I made a viewer with my binoculars, a tripod, and some cardboard. It worked great.

DIY eclipse viewer with Pentax 8 x 22 binoculars; before eclipse started

Eclipse viewer at 95% totality in Fort Collins, Colorado

The light was the weirdest thing. The closest experience I've had to that kind of outdoor light is when I've lived near major forest fires where the smoke is so thick the sun is blotted out. The light has a reddish caste to it. The temperature dropped several degrees: it was noticeably cooler outside for at least an hour.

Eclipse 2017; it was not dark outside, but the light was very red. We had 95% totality in northern Colorado.

I love how you can see little crescents everywhere the light is filtering through a small space like a bush above my deck.

Natural pinhole cameras created by the bushes above my deck.

The birds stopped singing for 5-10 minutes at the darkest point of the eclipse. They recovered quickly and are currently busy emptying the feeder I filled this morning. It was dark enough that the solar pump on my birdbath stopped working.

Billy Collins probably said it best...

As if to demonstrate an eclipse

I pick an orange from a wicker basket
and place it on the table
to represent the sun.
Then down at the other end
a blue and white marble
becomes the earth
and nearby I lay the little moon of an aspirin.

I get a glass from a cabinet,
open a bottle of wine,
then I sit in a ladder-back chair,
a benevolent god presiding
over a miniature creation myth,

and I begin to sing
a homemade canticle of thanks
for this perfect little arrangement,
for not making the earth too hot or cold
not making it spin too fast or slow

so that the grove of orange trees
and the owl become possible,
not to mention the rolling wave,
the play of clouds, geese in flight,
and the Z of lightning on a dark lake.

Then I fill my glass again
and give thanks for the trout,
the oak, and the yellow feather,

singing the room full of shadows,
as sun and earth and moon
circle one another in their impeccable orbits
and I get more and more cockeyed with gratitude.

Poem: "As If to Demonstrate an Eclipse," by Billy Collins from Nine Horses (Random House).