The emails began months ago when the Hart family started to discuss summer plans. Uncles, aunts, cousins, sisters and brothers were planning to come together in August for our annual thundering hordes, and August 21 was pinned on the calendar. An eclipse of the sun. A partial eclipse, but still something special.
How do we “see” the eclipse without seeing it? How do we protect our eyes? Can the children participate? The emails swirled, orders were made for special glasses and research done on pinhole cameras. Would we “see” anything? Would the sky be clear or would we get rain? The questions and questions and emails and emails. It was overwhelming.
The Hart family (David’s mother’s family) has come together in the village of Saint Donat northwest of Montreal (more on this in another post). Relatives have traveled from far off places like Israel and Washington state and converged on the family country home.
Over the past 24 hours I have read countless websites about this major event, as I soaked up whatever knowledge I could. By mid-morning today I was still far from an expert, and I don’t think anyone else in the house was either. We all knew that looking directly at the sun was a bad idea and could do damage to the eyes (specifically the retina).
Some people chose to go on a short canoe trip and the bright sun be damned. Others wanted to close the blinds and hide out in the house all day. Most of us decided to strap on the special glasses and try to see the moon move across the path of the sun.
The Montreal area only expected a partial eclipse of about 59-66%, so we knew that the sky would not go dark. We also knew that a patch of cloud or burst of rain could ruin it all. But the day stayed bright and sunny with only a few clouds.
We made our way to the deck at 1:20 pm and carefully tried on the special glasses. It took us a while to fasten them tightly to our eyes, just in case a drop of sun dared touch our retinas. David gasped in fear if anyone looked up, with the glasses on, for too long, and Julia didn’t quite understand what was happening. The rest of us, in good cheer, enjoyed the experience tremendously.
I tried to snap a photo with my phone (with my phone protected by the glasses), and that did not quite work and could only snap a photo in my mind as I glanced to the sky throughout the afternoon. I was in awe of the sight, of Earth’s great moon passing so gracefully across the sun, and blocking its path to us. With all the great inventions of humankind and great discoveries on Earth, there, in front of me, was an astounding natural sight. It is an event that has been happening for billions of years, and we were just spectators. Wow.
Thank you to everyone in the crowded house, all fourteen of you (with me it makes 15!), for preparing, discussing and experiencing this great event with me. We had disagreements today, a lot of silliness and a lot of fun. Maybe we can come together again for the next solar eclipse, scheduled for 2024!