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Never Met a Stranger: Ecliptical thinking

By T.W.Burger

I figured that I had better catch this one, as there will not be another total eclipse where I am for another 40+ years. 

I am not a fan of predictions, but I doubt I will be interested in such things in the 2060s. 

We did not buy the special viewing glasses one needs to look at the eclipse directly, though as the hour grew near, we came to regret that choice. I was more interested, though, in watching the world itself as the light faded and returned. 

A part of me thought it would be interesting to watch the reaction in a crowd of people, but that would mean I would have to be in a crowd of people, something I tend to avoid whenever possible. 

Where I live now, near Gettysburg, Pa., we only got about 92 percent of the full effect. It would have to do. 

First, all the hoopla is silly. Sure, the phenomenon is awesome to us wee beings on the planet. The reason we heard so much about this one is that we are blessed or cursed by a pack of media organizations vying to outdo one another.  

TV news networks had camera crews in the U.S. strung along the totality from the border with Mexico to Maine. They all showed awed and happy people staring upward, smiling or drop-jawed at the spectacle as the daylight faded and returned in a slow blink. 

Cynic that I am, I was happy that nobody took the opportunity to commit a mass shooting. We do have an overly complex culture. 

Britannica tells us that “In most calendar years there are two lunar eclipses; in some years one or three or none occur. Solar eclipses occur two to five times a year, five being exceptional; there last were five in 1935, and there will not be five again until 2206. The average number of total solar eclipses in a century is 66 for Earth as a whole.” 

Because we are dealing with the interaction of three moving bodies (the sun, the Earth, and the moon,) the path the moon’s shadow takes as it flashes across the face of our spinning world is rarely if ever in the same place twice. 

This is only fair, as it gives all of us a crack at either (1.) oohing and aahing and pointing cameras and cellphones at it or (2.) quaking in terror as the angry gods devour the sun. It all depends on whether you have access to the media. 

I will not discuss the peppering of loons who believe the whole mess is the action of aliens sealing rifts between the Earth and some sort of alternate dimension, or of the Death Star passing overhead on its way to Tatooine. I suspect the culprit there is someone who has both too much time on their hands and too many energy drinks in their system. 

The eclipse reached its peak at around 3:20 in the afternoon on my deck. 

The sun had been reduced to a sliver, I understand, though I dared not look without the special lenses. Our world got weirdly dim, not dark, on the deck, the creek, and the trees. The dimming had become obvious from inside, even before we went out, a nudging from the brain telling us that something was...different. 

Here and elsewhere outside of the full Monty, it was interesting to note the variety of reactions to the eclipse. The responses appear to have been more nuanced. I picked up a major “meh” vibe, frankly. 

I blame the modern film industry and their incredible CGI special effects. It is difficult for dear old gingham-clad mother nature to compete with Hollywood’s skin-tight-latex-clad SFX. No buildings fell down. There were no supernatural creatures flying out of the black hole where the sun had been. Crowds of people did not shrivel and die or turn into zombies.

Ho Hum. 

T.W. Burger was raised in Athens. He graduated from Athens High School in 1967. He worked as a driver of everything from fork trucks to garbage trucks and concrete mixers, has been an apprentice mortician and ambulance attendant.

Semi-retired and residing in Pennsylvania, Burger is still working as a contributing writer for Classic City News and various other publications, and lives on the banks of Marsh Creek, just outside of Gettysburg.


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Good one Terry, thanks. Once again we see our world through similar glasses.

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