A Total Eclipse [of the Sun]

Several of these images are by my mom and step-dad, but I don’t remember which, at this point.

I’ll admit, I was a bit…eclipse skeptical. But my step-dad said he wanted to share this once-in-a-lifetime event with my kids, and his enthusiasm was contagious. He’s also great at planning things; I knew he’d figure out a way to do it without being overwhelmed with crowds.

His plan, which turned out to be a great one, was to spend the night in Williamsport, PA, and then drive to Geneva, NY, for the event itself. Coming around this way helped us avoid the people surging north from NYC, and staying a couple hours’ drive outside of the path of totality made it possible to find housing.

SO…that’s what we did.

I assembled an eclipse-themed playlist for the event; it had some great songs, but also some very odd ones… My mom bought everyone eclipse-themed shirts, which added to the festive feeling of the event—we had a great time checking out all of the eclipse art people were sporting, and being part of that was fun.

On the way to Geneva, we stopped at several waterfalls. That area is known for them, and seeking them out became a bit of a treasure hunt (not all of them are clearly marked or easily accessible). One that we visited was Seneca Falls, as in the Seneca Falls Convention. At some point, I want to go back to that area to visit the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, but this was not the right trip for that (too much chaos).

The little town of Geneva was clearly thrilled to be in the path of totality. They had a full-on street festival, with vendors and music. We went to a park on the lake for a clear view of the sky. A lot of people were there (and some very good dogs), but it didn’t feel crowded. People were very relaxed, just hanging out and waiting for the moon to get in the way.

Here’s a fun fact that I learned as we were getting ready for the eclipse (had to make it “educational,” and definitely learned a good bit!): The reason we have eclipses where we can see the sun’s corona is due to an astronomical coincidence: The sun is about 400 times bigger than the moon, but the moon is about 400 times closer to earth than the sun. Which is why it *just barely* covers the solar disk. Wild, right?

The weather was overcast that day, with occasional sprinkles. I felt some jealousy of all my Cleveland friends who were out in their yards with clear skies. Nevertheless, it was very weird and interesting, all the same. We caught a few glimpses of the moon’s shadow as it moved across the sun. I could see the shadow coming across the town; it looked like nothing so much as the arrival of the alien ships in Independence Day. I was surprised at how cold it got (Silas insists it wasn’t cold, but I lent him my jacket, so…). Everyone quieted. Ducks settled on the lake. Street lights turned on. I had heard that insects might start singing like it was night time, but the park must not have had many, because I didn’t hear them. The 360-degree sunset felt alien and unsettling. I didn’t realize how dark it was until it started to get lighter.

After having this experience, I think I would do it again. The eclipse behind the clouds was moving and unnerving enough that I’d chase a clear-skied one.


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