The source of illumination
- A person/s or group who watches or views an obscuring of the light from one celestial body by the passage of another between it and the observer or between it and its source of illumination.
- “An eclipse of the sun will be viewed by Eclipsicators across the globe.”
- “The word “Eclipsicators” might not be in Webster’s dictionary, but it ought to be!” I made it up…I make up a lot of words. Why not – somebody made them all up at one time or another.
August 21st, 2017. The path of totality. T-shirts, mugs and eclipse glasses cropped up in grocery stores, gift shops and gas stations across the country months ahead of the big event. I hesitated to place an order. The last promotional T-shirt I ordered said Ben Carson for president sprawled across the front. That didn’t exactly pan out. I could not chance throwing off the trajectory of the moons orbital path – single handedly halting the anticipated and much-hyped solar eclipse; all for the mere purchase of a shirt. I’d be shunned by society. Possibly labeled a Nazi and/or incarcerated for treason. I opted for a pair of “Eclipser” safe solar glasses – the 2017 solar equivalent of your mothers’ ominous yet persistent warnings: “Don’t poke your eye out!”
Predictions poured in from obscure, unidentifiable sources. Anywhere from ten thousand to one hundred thousand people were expected to flock to the small town of Weiser Idaho, population 5,397…5,396 actually. I’m rarely home. Located 44° 15’04” N and 116°58’10’W – Weiser has been publicized for months as one of the prime locations across the nation promising 100% totality for a whopping two minutes and five seconds. Two minutes and five seconds. That’s it. Thousands of liberal, left wing, socialist tree hugging environmentalist flooding into our small, conservative town in a mass migration of progressivism. It was enough to make any red-neck Idahoan shudder in her combat boots.
I heeded the warnings: Stock up on food, water and ammo. Refill all medications ahead of time and top off all fuel tanks. Fully charge all mobile devices and keep an ample supply of emergency gear and water proof matches at hand. Limit all travel, board up the windows and doors, keep children and pets inside and above all else…don’t burn your retinas!
I honestly do not know what horrific things might unleash themselves during two minutes and five seconds of said event that would facilitate the need to build a camp fire, down 90 days of prescription meds and burn through 192 gallons of diesel. I wasn’t taking any chances. I followed the instructional warnings to the letter. I topped off my car, my truck and Miss Kitty the tractor. The generator and stock tanks were full. Beanee Weenees and Spam lined my pantry shelves and a 90 day Estradiol refill awaited pickup at the pharmacy. God forbid I grow a beard in two minutes and five seconds. Permission was granted to work from home the day of and after to avoid estimated 10 hour commute times between Weiser and Boise. I bustled around until I had succeeded in checking off every item on the emergency preparedness list; shaving off some time on the whole stockpile of ammo thing…already got that.
As the day of the great eclipse neared, I kept constant vigil on the roads leading in and out of my neighborhood for an increase in out of state license plates. Paying special attention to those plates that strike the most fear in the hearts of all true Idahoans: Oregon, Washington and (shudder)…California. They were coming. It was merely a matter of time.
Five days before the event I contemplated cancelling an appointment in Boise. I had no idea when the influx of Eclipsicators would begin. Did anybody? I text my son who lives in Boise: “How’s the traffic look over there?” He replied: “It sucks – as always.” No change there. I decided to chance it. I’d dash over, stopping for fuel on the way over and back to keep the tank above half and hope for the best. I mapped routes that would get me off the freeway and back home via alternate back-roads if things went south.
My son was correct: Traffic sucked. However, it seemed to suck no more than usual as I pulled into the financial planners’ office building. We had a few extra minutes after mulling over numerous “life after retirement” scenarios for idle chit-chat. The FA, I’ll call him Marvin, asked about the effects the eclipse was having on my small town. I mentioned the strangest thing I’d heard so far. A “spiritual group” had inquired of renting a mountain in the area. According to their beliefs, a child conceived during totality would usher in the next messiah, or some such shit. I giggled at the visual of a thousand little bodies rolling around on Indian Head mountain in an effort to “get’er done” in 2 minutes and 5 seconds. The rather stoic, 30’s something merely blinked twice and went back to discussing ROTH vs. 401k. Not everyone shares my sense of humor.
I was in a hurry to leave Boise before the mass migration of Eclipsicators hit. My fingers impatiently drummed the Formica tabletop. “So…basically, your saying I’m ok to retire as planned. What if I get fired before the scheduled date? Will I be ok still? Marvin didn’t look up from the phonebook sized documents that were my financial life: “Sure, you will be fine but you’re not going to get fired. You work for the State. You have a better chance of conceiving a baby with an inmate during totality.” For the first time since hiring this boy I felt my financial future was in good hands. Touché’
Freeway traffic appeared no worse between Boise and Weiser. Three miles from home and the terror began as I sat at the RR crossing of Pioneer and County 70. The mass migration of Eclipsicators was here – on this very road. Panic threatened to consume me as my Pontiac idled at the stop sign waiting for traffic to pass. I had to pull it together. I was too close to home to lose it now. I could do this. Breath. I nervously tapped the steering wheel as a backlog of three whole vehicles roared down County 70…and not one of them a tractor! County 70 hadn’t seen that much traffic at one time since the 2013 Weiser Mud Drag races at Mortimer Island.
I was at a loss as to where this mass influx of people were supposed to be staying because they sure has heck weren’t staying in town. Friday before the eclipse I loaded up my horses and decided to venture out in search of said Eclipsicators. I imagined thousands of tents popping up from the Sand Dunes to Steck Park in a massive tent city of invading Eclipsicators.
There were less people at the Sand Dunes four days before the eclipse than on a slow weekend. In fact – there weren’t any. They were prepared for them, though. Ten to a dozen port-a-pots lined the parking lot of the boat dock. Garbage cans dotted the entire area and fire restriction posters marked every possible spot an Eclipsicator might strike a match. Two semi beds filled with emergency and firefighting gear stood sentry on the outskirts of the park ready for action.
I rode from Steck Park to Crazy Lady Creek along the river. Not a single camper could be seen on the Idaho side. A few more campers than usual could be spotted on the Oregon side of the river, however. Not surprising; Huntington does have more to offer in the way of “recreational indulgents” than Idaho. To heck with renting out your property to Eclipsicators, a person could make a fortune over there selling Doritos on eclipse day.
My neighbor and I tossed the idea of blocking off our driveway the day before the big event. He would be working out of town and his house-sitter was uneasy at the thought of potential Eclipsicators taking up residence in her front yard. I expressed my concern with this idea as my son was coming over to watch the eclipse with me and I didn’t relish the thought of maneuvering a barricade every time we went in and out of the driveway. Besides – I would be home all weekend and as far as I was concerned, trespassers make excellent target practice.
My son and his girlfriend made it in early Sunday morning. Dillon wanted to hike and take pictures and Vanessa wanted to ride a horse. I wanted to check out the Weiser River Trail in hopes my Eclipsicator hunt there proved more fruitful than Steck Park. They had to be somewhere. Armed with camera’s, horses and a hopeful heart, we headed for the WRT.
The fine print on my eclipse glasses tell you not to wear them driving. Well, of course not! You can’t see a damn thing! You wouldn’t think a person would have to be told these things but, alas…it appears several of the WRT Eclipsicators were wearing their eclipse glasses as they drove down the well-marked “NON-MOTORIZED USE ONLY” trail.
Several Eclipsicator camps dotted the edges of the trail from the Galloway Dam to Presley Bridge. I tried to engage a few of them in conversation as we tacked up the horses. It wasn’t easy. I’ve come to the conclusion that folks from other states are afraid of Idahoans. Our conservative, God fearing, gun toting tendencies seem to strike fear in the hearts of other states. Except maybe Utah. Nothing scares those people…Anyhow, I tried to be friendly and opted not to mention the tid-bit about the trail being non-motorized and all. A lady dressed in what I assume was a tennis outfit tentatively approached as I waved and asked if she was from out of town and here as part of the eclipse viewing. (Of course she was – nobody in Idaho dresses like that- even if they are playing tennis.) She said yes – they were actually camped at the golf-course and out exploring the “wilderness.” She’d never been “roughing it like this,” she said. Definitely not from around here. She then asked what we were doing. I said we were going to ride on the Weiser River Trail. She then asked if we were going to ride “those horses or take them for a walk?” Sure lady – that would be like pushing a perfectly good car around the block for the hell of it. Most definitely not from Idaho….
We didn’t meet another sole on the WRT until our return. A white van met us in the middle of the trail a few hundred yards before Presley Bridge. Images of white vans mowing down innocent pedestrians across the nation flashed through my mind. Feeling somewhat confident a terrorist would not be driving down the middle of the WRT, the day before the eclipse, in hopes of running down a group locals equestrians, I stood my ground. A man sheepishly rolled down his window. “I think I took a wrong turn. How do I get off this thing?” First, take off your eclipse glasses so you can actually see the non-motorized signs and then head down this trail another 100 yards to the bridge. Hang a left and don’t stop until you get to California. No, I didn’t say that. But it did cross my mind. What I did was point him in the right direction and wished him and his fellow Eclipsicators a happy and safe viewing experience…and “don’t burn your retinas!”
Traffic in Weiser had increased little as we pulled through town on our way home from the WRT. There were more people in town during Fiddle Festival. Some campers were parked at the golf-course and the football field. I’d heard the school was selling viewing spots to raise money. Good for them. I hoped they had better luck than the countless ads on Craig’s list selling viewing spots for hundreds of dollars a day. Hopefully nobody quit their day-job.
Monday morning – E-day. If the mass invasion of Eclipsicators happened the day of the eclipse, I would never know. My work recommended all who could work from home to do so. With my kids safely tucked away under the fortress of our log house – a pantry full of Beanee Weenees and enough diesel to last until the second coming of Christ, we hunkered down and awaited the big event. It felt eerily quiet as I wandered around the yard looking for the best place to view the eclipse. The perfect spot landed dead center in the middle of the round corral.
Twenty minutes away from the eclipse the sky had a sort of dusky glow to it. I don’t know if I imagined it or not – it just “felt” different. I positioned a Go-Pro camera on my head so I could fully take in the experience without worrying about trying to photograph it. The horses grazed nearby. The sheep lay under the shed out of the heat of the day. The dogs wandered around doing what dogs do: Shade picked through a pile of horse poop while Hank peed on everything in sight for the zillionth time. A dog can never secure his boundaries too well.
The world around us began to respond immediately as the moon lightly kissed the bulging edge of the suns perimeter. Shadows became less defined. The temperature dropped slightly. The sun cast hundreds of tiny eclipsed moons on the ground as light filtered through the leaves of the trees; nature’s pin-hole viewer. It was beautiful. The horses continued to graze. The sheep continued to lay in the shed and the dogs continued to do what dogs do.
Seconds before totality, light from the sun poured through mountains and valleys of the moon’s surface creating splotches of light around the moons edge. Baily’s Beads. I checked the clock on my phone: 11:28:18 AM: Totality. We pointed our faces upward and removed our eclipse glasses in wonder. The sky darkened to a deep ocean blue. A few stars appeared in the mid-day sky and the temperature dropped. Bird sounds instantaneously ceased as totality began. The horses continued to graze. The sheep continued to lay in the shed and the dogs continued to do what dogs do.
The effect of totality looked like a black and white painting of the sun. It was hard to imagine you were looking at the moon and not the sun itself. The moon hung full face in front of the sun in bold determination. The sun’s outermost rays struggling to be seen beyond the defiance of the smaller celestial body. Clothed in the lions mane of the sun’s corona, this was the tiny moons chance to finally outshine the colossal sun…and outshine it did. The horses continued to graze. The sheep continued to lay in the shed and the dogs continued to do what dogs do.
As totality came to an end, shadows became more defined, temperatures rose and birds once again took up their constant chatter. The horses continued to graze. The sheep came out from their shed to roam and the dogs continued to do what dogs do.
I don’t know what I expected but it was… wonderful and somewhat emotional. All the hype leading up to it was nothing compared to the actual moment. I couldn’t imagine in the weeks leading up to it what everyone was so excited about. I sure as heck would not have traveled from the other side of the world just to witness such an event. Now, I’m not so sure.
The entire country was given the privilege of witnessing a truly spectacular cosmic event. For 2 minutes and 5 seconds – the majority of the country was looking up at the same sky. I like to think for 2 minutes and 5 seconds, people forgot their differences. For a moment we were focused on something other than politics, religion, race or personal interest. Although no doubt some will try, Trump couldn’t be blamed for it, Obama couldn’t take credit for it and Russia couldn’t be accused of meddling in it.
This was God’s doing. We were not white people, we were not black people – not red, yellow or brown people. We were just one people – looking up at God’s miraculous design. The eclipse of the sun does not care what color your skin is or how you vote. It doesn’t care if you’re liberal or conservative any more than it cares whether you drink coffee or tea. It was one creation looking upon another – the human creation.
I thank God for this very special day. I pray that people will spend more time with their faces lifted towards the heavens…witnessing all that is God’s miraculous design and reveling in the wonder of who He is… The One true source of illumination.