Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Where Were You When the Sun Went AWOL?

If you weren't aware of yesterday's total solar eclipse, you weren't on this planet. Okay, maybe that's stretching it a bit, but only a bit. It was a big deal here, because we were "in the path of totality," as it was billed. We had the Official (TV) Station of the Eclipse, and all kinds of other "official" things. Who knew the sun and the moon could hire a PR firm to promote their brief encounter?

Not that it was needed. The excitement that grew in anticipation for this once-in-a-lifetime event had been building for months. On the Big Day, thousands of people made the trip to our area just to see it. Some came from as far away as Japan and China. Some booked flights just to be in the air as it happened. Some got engaged during the Moment (totality, when the sun's corona looked very much like a celestial diamond ring). Ten babies were born during the eclipse--an unusually high number, according to doctors. A black foal born during the eclipse had a crescent-shaped white mark on its head. Guess what she was named?

For one day, most of us put aside our differences, joined in our excitement over seeing something that, if you're lucky, you get to see once in your lifetime. Eclipses weren't always so popular, however. Some ancient cultures believed the sun might disappear forever and demons would descend upon the earth and devour humans. Some fasted, believing food cooked during an eclipse was impure. Some ancient superstitions told of children born during eclipses turning into mice. Others suggested women and children were at risk and had to stay indoors.Some saw it as a warning to settle differences, as the sun would not come back until they did so. Good thing that one's not true. We'd still be waiting for the sun to come back!

In movies, eclipses have been harbingers of doom. In The Seventh Sign, an eclipse was one of the signs preceding the end of the world.

I viewed the eclipse with a neighbor, right here in our courtyard. I almost didn't go outside, even though I had my eclipse glasses ready to go. One of our local TV stations was doing a three-hour special to cover it. It would be more impressive on TV, I told myself. The image would be larger. More detailed. It wouldn't look any different. 

Boy, was I wrong.

I did venture out, at first, just to see how tiny the sun looked through the glasses at the beginning. There was just a small part of the sun obscured by the moon. Made me wish I still had my telescope. Made me wish for another. Made me wish I had brought my tablet out so I could view it through the Mobile Observatory app. I decided I wanted to see the big finale. I watched through the eclipse glasses as the sun was reduced to a tiny orange sliver, then nothing.

I'd forgotten the part about removing the glasses when totality was reached. I pulled the glasses off--and was immediately speechless. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. I was wrong--seeing it on TV would not have been the same.

Collin wanted to photograph it. I advised him to forget about that and just enjoy it. There would be plenty of photos available afterward. There have been--including a couple of amazing shots now available for viewing at St. Louis Daily Photo

For once, Collin took my advice and is still taking about the experience. Things were busy at IHOP, he said, until about 11:45. There was a viewing party at Jefferson Barracks, so I'm guessing everyone headed over there to wait for the eclipse. It was so quiet at the restaurant, Collin and his fellow servers were able to go outside and see it themselves.

Now, we're planning for April 2024. We want to go see the next one at Carbondale....

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

It's Been One of Those Weeks...Months....

In the past few months, death has been prominent. Two of my cousins passed away. A dear family friend died, too. Another dear friend lost her beloved Scottie.

And as is the case as we grow older, I started to wonder how much time I have left. I found out back in June that I had a small stroke--better than the alternative, a large monster stroke, mind you, but still unsettling. Especially given that strokes are one of our family curses. I started thinking about how suddenly it could happen. Or how I could end up like my mother, slowly slipping away over two or three years. Or maybe longer.

Things made sense after that revelation--the memory lapses, the intermittent speech issues, the focus, the concentration, the ability to develop a story so easily. I stopped beating my head against the wall, trying to figure out why I was struggling to do what once came so easily. I learned to accept that there would be good days and bad days. Still better than the alternatives.

I'm learning to appreciate the important things in life, which is why I'm not around so much these days. I still manage to keep up with everybody else's blogs, even if I haven't posted anything of my own in a while.

One of the things I'm looking forward to is the total solar eclipse next Monday. The last total solar eclipse to cross the US was on June 8, 1918, ninety-nine years ago. There was a partial solar eclipse (80%) here on February 26, 1979, but I missed it. I was busy preparing for another kind of son, who arrived five days later. (Hi, Collin!)

We're prepared. We have our eclipse glasses, verified to be the correct glasses, not the dangerous ripoffs that have been going around, and four t-shirts are on the way--two designs, so we each have one of each design. Cute, huh? If you've been here before, you know I love Minions!

But now, Collin may not even be home for the Big Event. He got tired of being stuck in his bedroom on the phone for ten hours every day, and went back to his old job at IHOP. At least it's still close to home. He may have jinxed them, though. Shortly after he returned, the company that owns IHOP announced a number of their restaurants would close in the coming year. Then, last Saturday, he got to work to find his boss had been fired and left just before he arrived. 

I got tired of fighting with my baby-fine hair and last week, I got my head shaved (almost). I figured, why not? I always wear hats or caps everywhere but at home anyway. Who's going to see it? Then I got a notice informing me that it's time to renew my state ID. That means a new photo. A photo without a hat or a cap. No way. I'll just have to be late in renewing the ID!

And how has your week been?