I wouldn’t say I was a total-eclipse collector, but I have bagged three of them in my life, which is probably above average. I don’t have an annular eclipse on my scoreboard, though, and the pictures looked pretty dang interesting. But I’d have to drive seventy miles south to get the full effect, and I didn’t have the freedom to take off for another eclipse trip right now. I was almost happy to read that much of the state was going to be overcast. If Mama ain’t gettin’ her eclipse, ain’t nobody…you know. I’m a child.
The last eclipse was basically in the center of Oregon and at the time everyone worried about the entire population of Portland descending on the town of Madras and tipping the whole state up like a skateboard. We were further instructed to worry about setting fire to the place from stray sparks from all the cars parked in the dry grass. We were having trouble at the time keeping the state from bursting into flame.
So this guy on the radio this year was warning us about all that yet again, although, he said, “the traffic jams and smoke predicted last time never materialized.” My radio blew up at that point due to a heavy object being thrown at it. Maybe the roads leading back to Portland were running better than expected. I would point out, however, that the roads south, carrying Crater Lake tourists and about 100,000 Californians, were not only jammed to the point of not moving at all, but also basically on fire. There’s just nothing quite like being dead-parked on a four-lane highway with several thousand other people, watching the smoke roll in. Jammed? We were in the car for twelve and a half hours. To go 240 miles. There were four of us in the car and although I couldn’t have picked a better crew to go down in flames with, I felt strongly at the time that I still had some living to do.
Anyway, this eclipse I was going to stay home. It was mid-October in western Oregon and it was overcast, not to be redundant. I basically forgot about it.
At nine in the morning I noticed a little shadow in the kitchen, heavily implying the existence of sunshine somewhere, however muted, and I remembered we were close to the time of totality. You could tell where the sun was in the sky, so that was something, although it was behind a scrim of high clouds. Dave and I went up to the tower, which did put us about forty feet closer to the sun. Even through the clouds, you really couldn’t look at the sun. We blinked at it for a nanosecond here and there but it was not possible. I wasn’t absolutely certain what time the thing was going to Go Off and so after about ten minutes I turned to go back downstairs and gave it one more glance.
Whoa! Suddenly I could look at the sun! And you could see the disk of the moon! With the ring around it! No, it was not quite total here, and there still was that high cloud cover, but it was unmistakable, and I only had a bright green blob with a red ring around it in my vision afterwards for about a half hour. It looked like Glinda the Good Witch on her way into Munchkinland. I had myself Christmas-worthy retinal damage and it was totally awesome.
Ten years from now, when my vision deteriorates completely, I’ll still have that memory. Well, you know. Maybe.