My Eclipse: Part 2
(Sheridan, Wyo) The story of my eclipse journey continues…
We found a vacant spot to pull across the ditch and park in the sagebrush along the rim of an amphitheater from another planet. Castle Gardens is aptly named; it ignites the imagination and, soon, our family had designated landmarks along our favorite paths, such as “The Giant’s Toes” and “The Alien Head.” The clay soil was full of gypsum crystals, and endless source of wonder for the children.
Everyone was friendly and neighbors got acquainted as the sun fell. In the morning, the air was full of anticipation. Tripods and viewing stations were set up, and everyone settled in for the event. The partial eclipse actually lasted for about an hour before totality, so the build up was palpable.
The shadows slowly got…weird, and the air became rose-colored. Someone kept yelling, “Totality!” as a prank. The temperature dropped and, although it was still quite light, it was pleasant, with no need for squinting or sunglasses. Looking through the solar viewers, your eyes played tricks on you. The sliver seemed to be shrinking… yet staying the same.
As the shard of sunlight grew impossibly small, it was no longer a trick. You could see the movement of the moon slowly erasing the line of solar illumination, and your heartbeat inexplicably became exaggerated, and then…, “Totality!” our friend screamed, this time with ultimate sincerity.
We all took of our glasses and exclaimed repetitively, torn between looking at the surreal hole in the sun and the 360 degree sunset that had suddenly silhouetted everyone. The few minutes of totality were timeless and fleeting simultaneously. It was long enough to enter a deep contemplation, yet short enough to be disorienting.
Having watched many documentaries in preparation for the eclipse, I found that I agreed with those who had witnessed it before. The experience is existential, highlighting the fragility and preciousness of life on Earth in the vast cosmos. This is an insight often reported by astronauts upon their first space mission.
The return of the sunlight was jarring, like a quickly rotated rheostat on an early school-morning. My children acted certifiably insane for at least a half an hour afterwards. The more efficient of the crowd took their leave before the partial eclipse had finished, speeding down the road and sending plumes of dust into the air.
We lingered, leaving what seemed a desolate campground eventually. Trying to enter the highway, we got a taste of the forecasted traffic, as many travelers were leaving Casper for points west. But we eventually made it to our little shortcut home. There were many deep thoughts on the ride, and we decided to dull them just a little with a stop at the Tensleep Brewing Company.
Someday I will write an entire article about how amazing and completely… Wyoming this place is, but suffice it to say that it hit the spot. We had a nice meal at the Bozeman Trail Steakhouse in Buffalo, and made our weary way home. We are all still processing the experience and, especially in my case, could use a few night’s good sleep. With that being said, I promise a full video of our totality experience tomorrow.
Contrary to the conspiracy theorists and doomsayers, I hope that we all take the eclipse as a reminder of our place in the universe and the miracle of life.