Eclipse Notes from Antony Van der Mude

Image from the Bedford Library Eclipse viewing party. Photo by Mike Rosenberg

By Antony Van der Mude

There are times when things change in an instant.

When the last arc of the sun was covered during Monday’s solar eclipse, the world flipped from daylight to dusk. The corona circled the moon. The horizon was the red of sunset all around us.

The experience at Dascomb Rowe Field in Waterbury Village, VT was remarkable. It was certainly worth seeing and experiencing – at least once.

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Was it awesome? Maybe.

Was it life-changing? No.

Experiencing the eclipse in the band of totality brought to mind two aspects of our awareness of time. The hour from when the moon first touches to sun to when it has totally snuffed it out is an hour of slow change. You cannot will the moon to go faster: you are in a state akin to “watching paint dry.” And you are constantly on guard. Every few minutes, you have a peek through the glasses at the sun, but you must be careful not to look up after you remove them, even for an instant, or the spot will stay bright for a while. Being older than 70, I have to be careful with my balance. I leaned my head back and grasped the fence beside me so I would not topple over.

After totality is reached, you want the world to stop and to drink in this present moment. But you know that there are only a few minutes to experience this state. So you look around, trying to catalog every impression you can. The play of light, or the relative lack of it, the sudden change from where the sun is too dangerous to look at to where you can stare directly and wonder at the spectacular corona. My companion pointed out a flare at about the 7 o’clock position. It stood out once it was pointed out to me. Some people have remarked on how the animals react to an eclipse, but I was in the middle of a baseball field with only fellow humans around me. They just kept on doing what humans do, but more quietly and with all of us focused on the same experience.

And then came the ride home. Like the aftermath of a concert or sports event at a stadium, everybody got in their cars and sat in traffic. We waited at a bar with a drink for an hour or so, but that made no difference. The interstate was full all the way back to Massachusetts. The computer apps sent us on rough back roads over the mountains, only to find a backup at the other end. We decided just to stay in the interstate traffic. So a three-hour trip home took over six hours. In this case, the best thing to have with you is a good companion who can sustain a conversation for hours.

We go to the ends of the earth for spectacles, but we don’t take the time to explore the magic that is around us. We rush through our days, but don’t take the time to stop and experience the present moment. It can be just as special to stop and take the time to watch a ladybug land and walk around, or to watch and listen to a brook splashing over the rocks as you walk beside it. There are magical moments all around us, if we take the time.

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