Eclipses I Have Seen

I got to see the Total Solar Eclipse on April 8, 2024!

For ten years now, I’ve been meeting on Sunday afternoons at the home of Alexis & Chris to play Eurogames — and Alexis has an uncle and aunt who live in Cleveland – and they invited us all to come! So Five of us climbed in their van, drove out Sunday, and Alexis’s aunt put us all up, with another aunt and uncle, too! On Monday, we went to the Arboretum. It was sold out, but that was because of parking. The grounds weren’t crowded at all, and it was a beautiful place to see the total eclipse.

What is it about a total eclipse?

I’ve seen others, but this one still blew me away. Something about the uncanny darkness, the temperature drop, the exclamations of others — it’s a great big shared humanity experience.

This time, it lasted almost five minutes, and probably the very coolest thing was seeing a red spot at the bottom – which turned out to be a solar flare we could see with our naked eyes. I also loved it when everybody on the grounds cheered as the sun came back.

And that got me thinking about other eclipses I have seen.

The very first one was actually just a lunar eclipse. I know my family lived in Kent, Washington, at the time, and research reveals that it had to have been on April 12, 1968, so I was only three years old, almost four.

At the time, there were four kids in our family, and one or two families of five or six cousins came over. And I remember lots of running around and yelling and running up to the attic to watch the moon change shape. And I got to stay up late to watch the moon and I know they told me it was an eclipse and it made a great big impression on me.

But — later on when I learned that the moon changes shape over time, I was a very confused little girl. Because I knew the moon changes shape. And I’d watched it change shape that one night — so my conclusion was that the moon must do that every night. I know they told the three-year-old it was an eclipse, but I don’t think the three-year-old understood how that was different from a normal night.

Yes, I know I’ve seen other lunar eclipses in my life, but none ever made such an impression!

The next eclipse I remember was a partial solar eclipse we saw in Illinois. We took my oldest out of Kindergarten to watch it together in the early afternoon. Research shows that must have been May 10, 1994. It must have been only a week or so before I went on bed rest with my second pregnancy. What I remember about that eclipse was being enchanted by the crescent-shaped shadows made by the leaves.

And then we got to see a total solar eclipse in Germany in August 1999!

I pored over the eclipse totality maps. Our home in Sembach was somewhere right around the line. Being so close, I wanted to see totality! They were having a Fest in Kaiserslautern, about 15 minutes south of us. If they were having a fest, they were sure about totality. So I took off work, and our family went to the Fest and met with friends Jeanine and Nick there.

Things were clear right up to the last minute. We enjoyed the crescent shadows. Then about half a minute before totality – clouds covered the sun and it started raining!

It still got dark. I remember that we were on a hill above the city and it was awesome when the street lights came on because it was dark. It was still incredibly cool. However, I was all the more frustrated when I learned that my coworkers at Sembach had stepped out of the library and gotten a good view of the eclipse!

So then when one was coming in 2017, I wanted to do it right. My friend Marilynn moved to South Carolina a few months before, so I invited myself down to see the eclipse. We ended up viewing it from her friend’s yard, with neighbors in adjacent yards, and it was another joyful and amazing time.

With all of them, there’s such a feeling of wonder and of Wow, we’re experiencing this together!

And then in October 2023, I was in California for my dear friend Ruth’s 60th birthday – and we got to enjoy a partial eclipse.

The crescent shadows on their garage were especially striking.

So yes, those are the eclipses I have seen. Definitely worth making the effort to see, reminding me I’m a small part of a great big solar system along with all us other humans here on earth together.

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