Beautifull An Eclipsophile’s Tale

This summer I’m heading to eastern Oregon for the total eclipse of the sun on Aug. 21. My husband and I will share a cabin with four friends we met in 1998 at a total solar eclipse on the Caribbean island of Curaçao. Yes, we’re true “eclipsophiles” who’ve followed the phenomenon around the world.

We didn’t realize we would get hooked before our first total solar eclipse in 1991 on Hawaii. At the last minute I’d convinced my husband, Michael, to go, and though we were able to buy airline tickets, we couldn’t find lodging. We finally did: The woman I called for help at the Big Island Visitors’ Bureau told me she knew a guy who was renting out rooms in his home. When we called him we found out that he was her son, Kerry, a high school science teacher and a wonderful host.

The morning of the eclipse, we scrambled to the summit of a small volcanic cinder cone called Nohona a Hae — “The Place of Wild Things.” We could see the grasslands below and the firmament above. Michael whined about getting up at 4 a.m. for the 7 a.m. display, but when totality hit — when the moon completely covered the sun and the sun’s halo suddenly appeared — he cheered.

He wasn’t alone. Everyone screamed: The sky had gone crazy. Planets and stars appeared, and the heavens glowed in shades of lapis lazuli with a thin line of sunset shades of orange and pink for 360 degrees along the horizon. The darkness of the moon’s shadow confused animals and plants. Cows headed back to the barn. Day-blooming flowers closed their petals. We felt as though the world had turned upside down — and we could relate to ancient peoples who thought the black dot of the sun meant the end of the world.

Now unabashed total-solar-eclipse junkies, in 1994 we traveled to Chile’s Atacama Desert, where rainfall has never been recorded. After totality we joined a hundred enthusiastic new eclipsophiles spontaneously forming a circle, holding hands, cheering and dancing on the hillside.

Our third eclipse took us to Curaçao in 1998. On our scouting mission the day before, we discovered that our planned viewing site, Christoffel National Park, would be closed the next day to protect the delicate desert from single-minded eclipse gazers. We found a public beach instead, but that morning it rained. To our relief, the sky cleared 20 minutes before totality, and we again experienced the euphoric otherworldliness of an eclipse.

Whether or not the weather cooperates and we can see it this summer, we’ll have fun with our eclipsophile friends. It’ll be a great chance to plan our upcoming total-eclipse trips: 2019 in Chile and 2020 in Argentina.