Twenty Years Ago, Solar Eclipse

“How then does light return to the world after the eclipse of the sun? Miraculously. Frailly. In thin stripes. It hangs like a glass cage. It is a hoop to be fractured by a tiny jar. There is a spark there. Next moment a flush of dun. Then a vapour as if earth were breathing in and out, once, twice, for the first time. Then under the dullness someone walks with a green light. Then off twists a white wraith. The woods throb blue and green, and gradually the fields drink in red, gold, brown. Suddenly a river snatches a blue light. The earth absorbs colour like a sponge slowly drinking water. It puts on weight; rounds itself; hangs pendent; settles and swings beneath our feet.”

― Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Lee viewing the eclipse, June 10, 2002

I was moving files around on my computer, looking at old photos in the process, and decided to take a look at a couple folders that were right about twenty years old. I found one of Lee (he just turned 30 – so he would have been ten at the time) projecting the image of a solar eclipse onto some paper at a baseball game. A quick google search and I found the eclipse happened on June 10, 2002 (only an annular eclipse – not a total).

So I dug out my old journal and looked up June 10, 2002. Sure enough, I wrote about the eclipse. Here’s what I said:

I was exhausted after work today.

Although I had things I really needed to do I decided to go with Candy and Lee (Nick is gone to church camp this week) to a T-Ball game played by Candy’s twin nieces. Little girl’s T-ball is always good for a chuckle or two, the girls are cute, the parents ridiculous, the facilities overwrought.

I tried sitting in the stands, watching the little girls making faces and sticking their tongues out at Lee, but I was too worn out to sit still on those aluminum beams. I walked over to an open grassy spot, a warmup area between two of the baseball fields.

I knew there was going to be a partial solar eclipse at sunset today, so I asked Lee if it was beginning to look a little bit darker to him. This started him off on his usual spate of questions.
“How do you know there’s going to be an eclipse?”
“Why can’t we see the moon if it’s about to hit the sun?”
“How can the moon block out the sun? Isn’t it smaller?”
“What do you mean, partial?

I tried to explain everything but wasn’t very successful. Lee would scrunch up his nose whenever I said Umbra or Penumbra.

I had brought my fabric briefcase. It has my Alphasmart in it – along with the digital camera and some other stuff – in case the muse strikes unexpectedly. I pulled a couple pieces of paper out and punched a pen through one, trying to make a crude pinhole camera so Lee could watch the progress of the moon’s shadow. It was too late in the day, though, the angle too severe, and I couldn’t get it to work very well.

Then I remembered that I had a pair of compact binoculars in the briefcase. I don’t know why I carry those around except for a vague feeling that they might be useful sometime. Today, I was right.

I showed Lee how to use the binoculars to project a sharp image of the sun on to the paper. He’d check the progress of the fingernail-slice of the moon’s shadow as it slowly ate up the sun.

The remains of the sun set orange and unnaturally dim at the height of the eclipse. The game ended soon after that. I don’t think Lee completely understands the eclipse, especially the partial thing. I guess I’ll be cutting out a round piece of cardboard, sitting up late with a flashlight and a globe. I guess I’ll be printing some web pages out, maybe that’ll help.