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An eclipse that (nearly) eclipsed all words

Bill Altork

We went out to a friend's 700-acre farm near Franklin, in the direct path. Camped in one of their pastures for the weekend, along with about 30 others. The weather was clear and hot. There was a shallow creek nearby, in which we frequently sat in our lawn chairs to keep cool.

Around 1 p.m. (Aug. 21) we all assembled in the open pasture and waited for the show to begin. The entire eclipse lasted about two and a half hours, with the total phase for two and a half minutes.

At first, as the black circle of the moon crossed in front of the sun, there was no noticeable difference. The darkness approached slowly. First it seemed like a typical hazy day. Then, like it was cloudy; but it was not.

For the last half hour, I felt like I was slowly going blind. The entire area within our view was meadow, pastures, a rolling cornfield, then hills, then mountains all around us. At the farthest, we could see about 15 miles. All of my world grew dimmer minute by minute.

As I repeatedly scanned through the special glasses, the black disk of the moon was crossing over the sun. Soon, only a thin crescent of the sun remained. The air grew significantly cooler as the sky grew darker. Again, it was that creepy sensation that my vision was failing me as my entire visual world slowly faded away. Our friends were reclined in lawn chairs or lying on the ground, all gawking at the spectacle. Lots of “oos” and “ahs” and “wows.”

Then someone announced one minute until totality. I kept alternating between looking at the sun being covered by the moon, and then removing the glasses and staring in wonder at the darkening landscape all around us.

And then suddenly we were immersed in darkness in the middle of a bright summer day. For the next two and one half minutes we could stare directly at the hidden sun without the glasses. It was a grand fusion of darkness and light. The black sphere of the moon was surrounded at its edge with a radiant, sparkling white light that sometimes emitted diamond bursts of light as well.

Then I took my eyes off the sun and looked around at the landscape. It was as dark as if there were barely a trace of daylight left, as if total night time was only minutes away. I could only see the silhouette of the mountains around us.

And then, at several locations in the sky, the stars came out! I was in speechless awe. A wonderful chill of spiritual delight ran through my body. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. The mechanics of the universe were demonstrating pure wonder. I repeatedly glanced back at the black marble moon surrounded by the most pure white light I have ever seen. It was so easy to feel an expanded understanding of the wonders of the universe.

Then the moon began to release the light of the sun once again, and for the next hour, normal daylight slowly returned to us, along with the mid-day heat.

This was an event that I will hold in my memory, my heart, and my mind's eye, forever.

More eclipse photos

Go to blackmountainnews.com to see more photos of people watching the eclipse at Town Square.