Sun and Moon (and clouds)

In Buffalo, the eclipse was simultaneously an astonishingly powerful and deeply disappointing experience. Clouds were in the forecast all along, but for the last several days, local meteorologists were constantly offering up reasons for optimism…which turned to “Sorry, we’re not clearing out until after totality, bummer, but it’ll still get dark and stuff.”

I know these folks don’t control the weather, but for all the technology and scientific expertise they have, it sometimes seems that their ability to offer up any kind of reliable forecast has been whittled down to timeframes measured in hours, or even minutes. I know some people around here were lucky enough to get enough of a view of totality to get a photo or two, but I wasn’t that lucky; all I caught of totality was a brief glimpse, maybe half a second.

Those four minutes or so of darkness, though? They were amazing. Truly, astonishingly amazing. For every cynic out there who has been saying things like “It’s just like at night, what’s the big deal,” I can’t say it any other way than to simply say, “It’s not just like night.” There was something qualitatively different about those four minutes…in how quickly they plunged over us, in how the flocks of gulls in the parking lot across the street went mad, in how everything in my circadian-rhythm loving body was screaming, “This isn’t right.” I can see how eclipses were terrifying moments for humans, for millennia, before we learned what they are and how to predict them and thus rendered them a thing of wonder.

There were other feelings, too. I couldn’t help thinking of Mom and how she would have loved to make it to today. She loved the sky and celestial happenings. I remember going to see if we could spot Halley’s Comet back in 1986, and she loved the Perseid meteor shower. She would often send me emails: “Go outside tonight and look at the moon because Venus and Mars are going to be right by it.” She would have been amazed by today, even if she would have been really annoyed by, as she would almost certainly have phrased it, “all these goddamned clouds”.

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