I thought it would be funny to post a photo of 3-D glasses on Instagram with the question “Will these work” to view the eclipse. So I posted it. My significant other laughed. But people on Instagram thought I was serious. Two of my friends and my science teacher son cautioned me that no, 3-D glasses won’t protect my eyes. My friend in Texas thought they were a plausible substitute and told me that she was going to view the eclipse through a welder’s mask– apt for someone whose husband jump started his helicopter with a pickup truck.
Though I think of myself as a smart person and was a bit shocked that anyone who knows me would think I was seriously considering my 3-D glasses, I proved to be a ditz after all. My only preparation for the eclipse was talking with people about it for weeks. We wondered when it would be. I made several guesses and finally got it right on the day before the eclipse (mostly because it was on the news). But I got everything else wrong.
Thirty minutes before the eclipse was to hit its peak above my house, I startled and jumped into action. I put on a little makeup in case my neighbors saw me in the front driveway, our best viewing point. I remembered that I have a great Nikon camera that I could use. Maybe I’d be safe watching the eclipse on the display screen of my camera, which I’d point skyward. But my camera battery was nearly dead. I plugged it in.
I got out my tripod and set it up, not without a little trouble. The clock was ticking. Would my battery charge in time? Another of my sons called me for help with his resumé. Every time he calls, I can’t talk. I wouldn’t blame him if he thinks I don’t really love him. Much later when I called him back and he said he’d used a welding mask to watch, I laughed at him. (He used to live in Texas, so maybe it’s a Texas thing.) I don’t even know where he got a welding mask. He reads EKGs for a living.
I had a bit of trouble connecting my still battery-less camera to the tripod. From my palmful of memory cards, I couldn’t determine which one had enough memory to record this once-every-99-years experience. Not surprising, since I videoed my daughter’s wedding in January, having bought a special external mic to catch every word– but forgot to turn the mic on. One day, we’re going to get together and make a silent film soundtrack. Tequila may be involved.
This whole time, my significant other was trying to detect odd animal behavior in our two cats. The reporters on TV recounted some of the weird things animals had done during prior eclipses. “They’re talking about during the eclipse,” I told him, “not on the day of the eclipse.” The channel we were watching wasn’t so brilliant, either. They had reports from each popular location in the path of totality. The one I watched before going outside was ridiculous. When the moon blocked the sun, that’s the picture they showed! I could see that image anywhere. They had two smaller images in the bottom corners of the big one, and they were both using night vision. It would have been nice to watch how the light actually changed during a total eclipse. We were only going to experience around 80-90% of it.
I headed out to the driveway, set up my camera (I remembered the battery), but couldn’t figure out how to turn on the viewing screen. I also couldn’t figure out how to switch it to video. There was no time to go back in and hunt for the user’s manual, much less search through it. While I was fiddling with the camera unsuccessfully, my significant other entreated me to go in the back yard with him and watch the slivered shadows cast by our oaks and palms. Seriously? And leave my camera and my viewing post? I appeased him by using my iPhone to take photos of the slivered shadows on the hood of my car.
In every video I took, he talked though he never wants to be on the Internet. Every time I take a picture of him, he says “Don’t put that on Facebook!” There was no point in worrying about that then, because my iPhone suddenly ran out of memory. I frantically deleted random videos. I wasn’t sure what I was deleting. It could have been something important, like our cats wrestling, and now I wouldn’t be able to post that on Facebook.
The air got cooler. The light was odd, which reminded me of words in a line of a poem I wrote years ago: “Odd, moon-flung light.” Those words made a world of sense under an eclipsing sky. Too bad the rest of my poem sucked.
I snapped photos with the Nikon, which weren’t very good. I got brave, looked up in the sky– not directly at the sun; I’m not the president, you know– and pointed my iPhone where I thought the sun was and snapped a photo. It was horrible.
Then I remembered I had filters in my camera bag. I didn’t know what any of them were for. I picked out a gray one. The photo wasn’t much better. The purple one worked well enough; after snapping an iPhoto with it, I put it on the lens of my Nikon. Even with the purple filter, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was seeing. I know, I probably could have bought a special eclipse filter on Amazon, where I also could have gotten my eclipse viewing glasses. I’d been too busy blowing my nose. I’d had a cold, which was getting better, but I blame my incompetence on the cold because what else can I blame it on? Snot gets in the way. Next time you screw up, blame it on snot.
It never got dark. The air warmed again. By degrees, the light became less odd, less moon-flung. I checked my watch: 3:10. Our peak had been at 2:51. I’d been so busy thinking up my snot excuse, I’d lost track of time. I packed it all up and went inside to see what I had. Here are my best photos, and yes, I put them on Instagram and Facebook. Turns out I didn’t delete the video of my cats wrestling. I’m posting that next.