Tuesday, April 09, 2024

'An Obscuration of the Luminaries of Heaven'

In 1963, our street in a suburb on the West Side of Cleveland was still unpaved and the city periodically coated it with tar. Rain fell on the morning of July 20 but by late afternoon the skies had cleared and all that remained of the rain were puddles in the water-proof street. As kids we loved to argue, not unlike adults. We’d been warned not to look directly at the total solar eclipse scheduled that afternoon, so all the junior ophthalmologists on the block commenced debating whether we could safely look at the reflections of the eclipse in the puddles. I, who would turn eleven in three months, voted yea, and that’s the image I retain in memory: a shimmery halfmoon on a black background. One kid peeked at the eclipse and briefly claimed he had gone blind.


Heavy cloud cover and a bit of rain made Monday’s eclipse in Houston mostly a bust. In the early afternoon, the air looked like 5:30 p.m. in December. Wearing those silly glasses, late in the eclipse’s passage, we stepped outside and saw the darkly orange crescent. It felt like looking through the wrong end of a telescope. Our dog ignored it. Nothing apocalyptic about the event, only mild disappointment. I consoled myself with Dr. Johnson’s definition of eclipse in his Dictionary: “An obscuration of the luminaries of heaven; the sun is eclipsed by the intervention of the moon; the moon by the interposition of the earth.”

1 comment:

Faze said...

Perfect viewing of the totality here in Cleveland. It was worth going outside for, but I wouldn't travel to see another. Dawn and sunset are equally awe-inspiring, and we get to see them every day. No one should feel bad that they missed it.