Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane, co-author Rainy Day Thought, where they write about ideas and creativity. Diane posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome as it turns an article into a discussion, but must be in English, have no links that were not pre-approved, not include profanity, or threats. The problem with the links is we can't take the time go there and see if they are legitimate and relate to the topic.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


The last time a total eclipse came across the United States, it was [1918]. It came in the middle of a turbulent time for the country. WWI (where about 53,000 Americans died in combat) would not end until November 11th. Maybe more significant for many Americans, that January was the beginning of a pandemic that would eventually take 650,000 American lives-- most between the ages of 20 and 40. That tragedy was a big deal in my family's history, as my mother and her sisters got very ill. As she was nursing them, my grandmother's beloved brother died. The stories of that go beyond the physical to the spiritual and are part of my family's mythology.

Today, we understand-- eclipses are biological events, the obscuring of light by one celestial body passing over another. Lunar ones happen regularly, but solar ones more rarely and not in the same places. In some times and cultures, these events have been regarded as having spiritual significance-- especially before science was good at predicting and understanding their cause. When you see one, you understand better how a more primitive culture might have regarded them.
Shamans have used such events to give themselves power. I would guess solar eclipses provided less opportunity since they are further apart in any one geographic area. Today when spiritual leaders tried to make (a few did) the one of August 21st into something with spiritual meaning, they had less success. We know too much.

I had another blog set for today but thought I should use the photos Ranch Boss took  Monday morning in Oregon. The actual event lasted two hours or so. We, like many others, settled ourselves (with comfortable chairs) to where we'd have full view of the sun and bought special glasses to watch-- because to study the sun is to court blindness. The climax, when the corona appeared lasted about two minutes here. To photograph it he used a tripod, telephoto lens, and a filter to protect the lens-- the sun will destroy a camera as easily as a retina.

Animals aren't alerted like we are. As it began to take out the sun, the vultures had been circling over a nearby road. As the air current changed, they soared less and used their wings more. Then they disappeared to settle onto tree branches. When the moon blocked the sun, we heard the coyotes yodel from up the valley. As the sun returned, a neighbor's rooster crowed. Our sheep and cattle had sought shelter earlier; so I can't say what they thought. The cats roamed around, were a little feisty with each other (not unusual), but then night is their time anyway. Even though we were in the center of totality here, it never got totally dark but more like dusk. The temperature dropped 10 or so degrees. 

In a way it was all biology. In another, it was, however a big deal in the US-- something we could all talk about without getting mad or upset. I admit. It surprised me when it felt special-- something I suddenly shared with more primitive cultures as well as our own. I could imagine how scary it must have seemed to a people not knowing it was coming. I could see how someone might claim they brought the sun back to gain power. For me, it was more moving than I had expected it to be when it reached totality. 

An event like that is what photography is all about. It allows someone to share with others a moment that otherwise passed and is gone. For much of the US, this was a big event. It felt good to have something we could share without judgment or someone being angry. I liked knowing that as it passed us, it was over others until it went off our continent. It was truly a shared event, at a time when so much is divisive.


Tabor said...

I did not buy the equipment needed for taking photos. I have seen a few solar eclipses elsewhere. The one here was only 80%...so it looked like a few hours before sunset. The birds did "seem" to react.

Rain Trueax said...

Paul made his filter but otherwise, this was our camera and a lens we had bought for wildlife photography and Yellowstone in particular. He used file folder material to create the sheathe and holder for the solar filter (bought from Amazon for $10 and 8" square sheet which left over half for something else). We were thinking it could be interesting to try to photograph solar flares, in the season they are most frequent. Someone else we know took their photo through their telescope (also used a protective filter), which they have for watching the sky at night.

I have seen an eclipse before also as it came through here in '79. I think the big deal for the country was the advertising, organized solar parties, and the need people had for a feel good experience that could be mostly shared.