Sudden eclipse of the sun!

Sudden eclipse of the sun!

Last week was quite a week.

We’re getting used to news of human-made disasters — terrorist attacks, war, starvation, hatred; political polarization, chaos, the feeling of impending disaster.

Last week, nature chimed in, behaving eerily like the enactments of the 10 plagues that kids so love doing at the seder.

Earthquake? Got it! Some of us felt it; some of us are left feeling that we missed something. (I can say that among Café DeMi’s many charms, until now crowned by the pastries and coffee, is the solid building in Teaneck where it’s housed. No crockery rattled. No espresso machine complained. That’s great, right? But we didn’t get to feel the earthquake!)

We are, of course, incredibly lucky that no damage was done. As I inched across the crowded George Washington Bridge, I thought about the Key Bridge in Baltimore. We were very lucky that the earthquake shook nothing loose on any bridge or tunnel.

And then the eclipse. (Has anyone else been unable to get “sudden eclipse of the sun” from “Little Shop of Horrors” out of her head? And has anyone else noticed how that theoretically funny musical is actually very grim?)

I know that the experience of seeing the total eclipse is awe-inspiring, even transformative, and that the path of totality was pretty broad, but it would have taken a lot of work to get there. (Syracuse, anyone?)

But instead we went to stay with good friends in Woodstock, and from there to a small rooftop viewing party in neighboring Kingston. The experience might not have been transformative, but still it was something.

It didn’t get dark where we were — it was overcast, yes, but you don’t need an eclipse for that — but it did get colder, actively cold, as the eclipse neared its peak.

The glasses (which is a ridiculous word for cardboard and plastic constructions) were so dark that they made it impossible to see anything except the sun peeking out from behind the moon, so it made taking them off to look at anything else, and then putting them back on to look at the eclipse, forcing us to move between two entirely different worlds.

The whole effect — the blackness with the thin orange Cheshire Cat quarter-smile — was very Halloween.

And, overwhelmingly, the way that for that hour or so the sun looked like the moon, a baby moon, was striking.

There are metaphors in all of this, although it seems more satisfying to leave them mysterious than actually to pin them down on the page.

My sister saw the partial eclipse with the rest of the teaching staff at the Staten Island public school where she works. It was wonderful, she said; everybody was doing the same thing, and everybody was amazed by it.

Everyone has an earthquake story, and everyone has an eclipse story. We come together to tell them.

At least we won’t get the next predicted plague, the cicadas. Until next year, that is. And who knows what will happen between then and now?


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