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MARTHA SEZ: The Aug. 21 solar eclipse was a shared moment

August 25, 2017
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

"I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky."

(The Rolling Stones, "Paint it Black")

The eclipse of the sun Monday, Aug. 21 was exciting, even though we here in Upstate New York were not in the Path of Totality.

If you were in the Path of Totality, and if you were able to obtain a special pair of eclipse-viewing spectacles, you could have seen the total eclipse of the sun as the moon passed in front of it for a couple of minutes. Everyone in the United States was able to see at least a partial eclipse. Here in Keene, New York, the moon obscured 65 percent of the sun. It was great.

The Path of Totality was 70 miles wide, and ran right across the United States from Central Oregon through South Carolina.

And it didn't stop there. More than 5,000 passengers on The Oasis of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, sailed into the Path of Totality to experience the eclipse while Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler sang an abbreviated version of her 1983 hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart." A special drink called the Cosmic Cosmo was served. I have tried to no avail to obtain the recipe.

From what I have seen, this solar eclipse was extremely popular. As one live news commentator in South Carolina observed about the crowds just after the event, "Everyone was like, wo!"

Another called the eclipse "amazing." Oh well, I admit that it is difficult to put the experience into words.

I was at work when another employee ran in and got me.

"I'll cover for you," she said. "You've got to see it."

Everyone who lives or works on the street as well as passersby and tourists were outside in the eery light passing around a pair of eclipse-viewing glasses that a store owner was sharing. There was a perceptible feeling of jubilation among the random gathering.

Millions of people planned their vacations around the eclipse or traveled one way or another to the Path of totality to see the moon pass in front of the sun. I very seldom think of things in time to plan for them, and in this case it didn't seem to me that the eclipse would be a big deal. Wrong.

Many people failed to plan ahead and so were unable to obtain the special safety glasses, which look very much like the cardboard 3D glasses worn for movies like "Avatar" and "jurassic Park III." Some people I know in Texas made a pinhole camera so they could watch the eclipse through it, and set the grass on fire. At least they said so. Millions watched the eclipse on line or on television.

I don't know why this event made me so happy, or why I feel that seeing it changes things for the better in my life. Other than impending insanity, the only explanation that comes to mind is that here is a major event shared by everyone in our country that doesn't involve politics. Not at all. I hadn't realized how politics had wormed its insidious way into our hearts and minds, certainly into mine. I looked beyond all that, at least for a minute.

People keep saying how the ancients were discombobulated by eclipses and didn't understand them, but there were astronomers in Babylonia and China who predicted eclipses as far back as 2500 BC. Still, superstitions abounded about what they "meant." Everything happens for a reason! People probably said.

One superstition that persisted down through the ages, for example, was that an eclipse was a portent of doom for a king. In China a temporary substitute was placed on the throne in order to throw the cosmic powers off track. The Chinese must have had a low regard for the intelligence of the cosmic powers.

Some political observers have called Steve Bannon "King Bannon" because of his perceived influence on the president of the United States. Perhaps he left the White House shortly before the eclipse in order to divert the ancient royal curse. "Just call me Steve," he was probably saying.

But no. I will not think about Steve or any other politician. My life is different now. I know that it will change in good ways I cannot yet foresee. I am going to hold onto the beautiful cosmic moment that I and so many millions of my fellow Americans experienced, that glorious moment following the eclipse, when everyone was like, wo.

Have a good week.



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