Solar Eclipse in Oregon

The total eclipse on August 21st 2017 was worth the hype. 99 percent coverage just isn’t the same. I got to see it in Salem Oregon, in Bush’s Pasture Park, right near downtown.

Photos, of course, don’t do the event justice.

With the watercolor sketch below, I tried to capture some of the strange, ethereal colors that happened during the eclipse.  The sky turned a strange dark blue, the blue of dusk, of the sunset. And the huge corona was visible, at least three or four times the diameter of the sun itself. It appeared wispy and white against the dark blue of the sky, with soft edges (softer than in this painting).

I thought I could see, with my naked eyes, bits of reddish orange around the edge of the moon. Were they solar flares? Imaginary spots? I don’t know.


More than the appearance of the sun during the eclipse, however, I thought it was the physical sensations that were the strangest part of the experience, and the most powerful.  It got so cold! Weird! And the light changed so dramatically. Until the light disappeared!

It is the sort of experience one would never expect to have on this earth.

It all happened so fast. It was supposed to be two minutes or so but it seemed much quicker than that. Almost like the blink of an eye. A heart beat. Perhaps without the sun, my sensation of time was distorted.

Watching the disc of the moon slowly slide across the sun–using the momentarily ubiquitous ‘eclipse glasses’ — was also a strange, fascinating experience. But very different from the actual eclipse. They are like two different events, in a way. The interesting thing about using the eclipse glasses was the possibility of seeing the movement of the moon. The eclipse itself is more like a moment in time.

You don’t see the moon at all, before it moves across the sun. (This makes sense of course now that I think about it but that day, waiting for the eclipse, I half expected to see the familiar white moon hanging out near the sun.) This helps explain why a solar eclipse was such a calamitous event for ancient people: you wouldn’t really know that that is the moon moving across the sun unless some one told you. Even then, it is still a little hard to imagine. The moon takes on many shapes and forms in the sky. But never is it black. A black disc, a black void. There is certainly something sinister about it.


Over all, I wasn’t quite sure what the hype was, exactly, about the solar eclipse. But I figured I should check it out, as long as it was going to be so close to where I live (an hour’s drive). Now I know why people get so excited about it. If you ever have the chance to see a solar eclipse, you should go and see for yourself. That’s really the only way to do it.

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