Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Dallas, Part 2: Eclipse


4/8/24 Viewing the eclipse in Grand Prairie, TX

Who knew that a few clouds could cause so much tension?

As a Seattle native, I consider overcast skies my natural habitat and certainly not a cause for consternation. In the days leading up to April 8, 2024, however, the weather was a primary topic in my family’s ongoing chat thread.

When we got together in Oregon for the 2017 eclipse, clear summer skies were the forecast, and we enjoyed a perfectly unobscured viewing. In Texas, though, conditions were iffy.

The eclipse was to begin in the early afternoon. Over breakfast, we yay’d when it was sunny; when clouds reappeared, we boo’d. All morning, the sun dipped in and out of clouds over Grand Prairie, where my family had found an ideal house to rent for the long weekend. In addition to having exactly the number of beds we needed, it was also in the center of the path of totality, ensuring maximum viewing time – nearly four minutes – of the event’s climactic phase. Ensured, of course, as long as the sun was unobscured.

Donning our ISO-approved safety glasses (made of cardboard and in two styles) and matching T-shirts, we gathered on the back lawn. My brother had staked out an ideal location to set up his high-end camera gear. I came prepared with a white Prismacolor pencil and an Uglybook containing dark blue paper, which I thought would be the most efficient way to document the moon’s path.

At 12:52 p.m., I made my first sketch of the partial occlusion. Clouds continued to drift past sporadically; when the coverage was thick, the sun could not be seen at all.

As totality inched closer, the tension and anticipation increased. By 1:30 p.m., it had become perceptibly cooler and darker.

At 1:40 p.m., the clouds parted. Birds we had heard earlier stopped singing, and an eerie darkness, very different from night, fell. The totality phase had begun! Finally able to view the sun without protection, we screamed and cheered, awed by the spectacular experience for nearly four minutes – completely unmarred by clouds.

At 1:44 p.m., the “diamond ring” appeared (a moment sought by photographers), signaling the end of totality. Scrambling to put on our protective glasses again, we sighed collectively and applauded.

Although I would have been disappointed if clouds had kept us from seeing the moon’s alignment with the sun, that long weekend would not have been less special. For me, reuniting with my family is the part I cherish.

(I held off on publishing this post until after the slightly shorter version appeared in On the Spot, Gabi Campanario's zine of sketch reportage. You can read that version here. I'm thrilled to be published there again!)

Kaila napped through the whole eclipse, but I wanted to include a photo of her, too.

The "diamond ring" signals that the total eclipse phase had begun. (photo by Frank Koyama)


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