April 15, 2024

out-of-body, out-of-world

I experienced a total solar eclipse on Monday (⌐■_■)

A time of cosmic & geological overwhelm
This rock was our viewing spot. 10 minutes before totality

I knew things would ~get weird~, I knew the light would be nightmarish, I knew people often faint, scream, and cry during,

but I was not prepared for: 

  • How suddenly the world went from light to dark, even at the last moments of a tiny sliver of sun, which is why a partial eclipse feels nothing like a full one. 
Interesting thread about how our senses are logarithmic.
  • The silence/held breath of the last moment before the moon slipped all the way over the sun. Everything was still very briefly: a friend across the pond from us took video of small waves that appeared on the pond surface in that moment. 
  • The collective gasp when the sun suddenly went out. We were in a remote place, with little awareness of anyone else around us—but the gasps that emanated around the pond revealed the other eclipse viewers. And I think that was the point—for me, it felt and sounded less like a visceral primal scream, but rather a dumbfounded, kneejerk “are you experiencing this, am I alone”. 
  • The loud bird chirping that responded to the sudden darkness. I generally find bird chirping a pleasant nature sound, but with the volume and length it persisted (throughout the 3 minutes of totality), it began to communicate an uneasy fear and confusion from the animals around us. When the light came back, one of the first things we saw were 2 crows dive-bombing and chasing a hawk—I wonder what mischief was attempted during the confusion. 
  • Automatic night-lights turning on in the darkness. We were sitting next to a graveyard, and the solar-powered nightlights at the headstones suddenly lit up. 
  • How cold it got. It was a fully warm, nearly hot day: 45 minutes earlier I was in a t-shirt with rosy cheeks. As it got dark, I found myself shivering under my puffiest coat. 
  • The 360-degree sunset. We were fortunate to have a 360-degree view of the horizon, and to see the orange stretching all around the pond felt like science-fiction, like we had been transported to a different planet with radically different natural laws. 
  • A little red dot at the bottom right of the corona. Which I now know was a solar prominence, "a massive loop of the sun’s plasma that hangs attached to the visible surface of the sun, forming perhaps within a day but lasting as long as several months". 
  • An intense feeling of awe, complete loss of control. It was unlike any natural experience I've had living in this world several decades—it felt like nature was mocking our flawed expectations of how weather/sun/light works. I felt helpless, like everything can be gone/change in a second. Is anything I know real—in the silvery purple of total darkness, are Peter and Reid aside me just going to fade away with a wisp? It was among the only times I’ve held and examined fear in a detached way—an existential, sensory feeling rather than the blinding panic of immediate danger.
The best picture I got of the eclipse was of its reflection in the still water below me. 
Gratitude, togetherness, fullness after 🫶


On a lighter, eclipse-related note:

Several days after the eclipse, we saw the magnificent Jinkx Monsoon as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, a musical whose plot is premised on a solar eclipse that delivers to Earth an otherworldly, all-consuming alien in the shape of a horrifying plant. Makes complete sense to me as a plot point now