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I saw the Great American Eclipse

Wow, where to start? The Eclipse was pretty amazing. Everyone else has probably finished posting, blogging and talking about it. I was staying with a friend and most of the day after it was just enjoying time there, living in it, and after that sleeping on the trip home or resting from the huge trip. So today was really my first chance to write up a post about it.

Getting down there was actually a little tricky for me. I banked on going with someone else already on their way to it but after a while I realized that wasn’t gonna happen. So it was more of a last minute scramble. I had actually known about the Eclipse for a couple of years, forgot about it and only remembered about a month or two ago when someone mentioned it.

I managed to get the money and leave on Friday night, for over half a day on buses to get to Greenville, South Carolina where I had a friend who I was going to stay with. The trip itself was a little chaotic and stressful, there was a 2 hour delay in Charlotte, North Carolina likely due to the Eclipse travelers. I got to my destination thankfully a good bit before the worst of the traffic and settled in a very nice guest cottage my friend’s family had built.

Some Regrets and Misfortune

I really regret not preparing myself more for what I was going to see. I did take some small ritual stuff… but for the longest time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself. I knew the event would be spiritual for me but I felt there was something I had to, I was meant to do. I realize now that perhaps that was to realize the unrealistic expectations i have for some things. But don’t worry, it wasn’t all bad (as I will detail later!).

On one level, I expected a lot more out of the experience in terms of physical sensation and reaction. I had read that there was a sudden temperature drop but I felt most of that during the partial. The light oddly got dimmer as it approached, and I thought it would be darker and a lot of other things more dramatic. However I can actually attribute a lot of my dissatisfaction with the Eclipse to the environment I watched it in.

I had planned to get away and view it privately but I didn’t know how to dance around the fact that my friend’s family wanted to all watch it together and had some little plan out. They don’t know that I’m a Hindu and I’ve kept it stupidly easy secret to keep (helps that they have no idea what a mala is or recognize any of the Oms I constantly wear).

This led to me to having to watch with them. One person was flying a drone around, my friend was trying to get everyone to look at Jupiter, and another was playing a broadcast from some science center in town a few miles out and so it was off from what we were seeing. All of this added up to be very distracting and it robbed me of maybe I’d say half the time if not more with everything going on.

Not All was Lost, in Totality

Despite all of that I had my singular focus on the Eclipse as it was reaching totality. We were eating outside (a couple of us a salad recipe of mine that one of my friend’s family really enhanced with a cool idea) and I kept peeking with my protective glasses. It was during this time that we actually played that song I made the night before the eclipse, to which it was pretty well received but also called “different” in an eccentric connotation (I assume how I treated scales in it).

As the last portions of the sun started to disappear I remember staring at it intently through the glasses. This sense of “WTF” and growing intensity in my body as I saw the sliver get smaller and smaller. I think I might of ripped off my glasses and honestly I don’t recall what I saw at that point. I think I may of just looked around me at the light. Time was moving so fast for me.

I took off my glasses and it was so different. I had seen out of the corner of my eyes it get so dark as if someone was turning down the lights on a dial pretty fast. It was rather surreal. But nothing totally prepared me for those last moments with the glasses on when I kept seeing smaller fractions of the slightest, more slight than I could imagine… slowly disappear. And then the sun is gone. And I wait a second or two more. I take them off. And there is… this flat perfect pitch black circle in the sky, with a Corona going out at least 2 or 3 times it’s own radii.

It wasn’t quite like anything I had ever seen. I had seen a lot of pictures of it before, and I knew no video could quite capture the actual look of it (either being under or over exposed). But it also… didn’t seem as different as I expected. The Corona went really far out in such a way, to the top left and bottom right that was wispy and not like anything I had seen in pictures, as if no camera could pick up the very transparent parts.

On the right side I could of sworn I saw a solar flare, which I was able to confirm later when meeting a young man who was my bus buddy on the way home (he got a really good shot of it). There were actually two, and he also showed me a picture of sunspots i could of sworn I was imagining in the same spot the day of and before.

Those few Magical Seconds

Something that really struck me was just how utterly dark it was. It was like nothingness in the sky. Normally when we see the sun there is glare, deafening sight of smudged brightness in all directions. Right then I was seeing perfect roundness and faint, hallow and transparent radiating light and energy off of the edges.

It didn’t truly occur to me until later but I thought I would associate this event with Kali due to the darkness, or that companion due to it being a lunar event. But this wasn’t lunar. This wasn’t in my mind then and there a moon type of event but a solar. Shiva. Radiance and black flame of balanced totality in the sky. If anything, Shiva-Shakti and transcendent of lunar or solar. Light or Dark.

It was in those first few seconds seeing that build up, and then nothing, taking off the glasses and seeing the blackened sun that I was enraptured tuning everything out and seeing just as it was, the pitch black sun. Even now I can’t process exactly the sight I saw, as if the memory was fleeting. Time did go fast. What struck to me was the Corona, and that’s what I remember the clearest.

This is sadly when the distractions sunk in. I did have some music on some headphones to try to drown out others but looking up it slipped off. And I couldn’t take my eyes off of it to do anything with it. I kind of felt so much was going on, and I was just trying to enjoy what I was seeing. Take it in.

Shiva, The Moon and Sun

Despite those distractions I did have a second moment…taken in and came down to my knees seeing it… I muttered something, something I can’t recall now about Shiva. I was struck by what I was seeing. In a way, it actually looked like it was a portal, gateway,  a hole and the Corona going the furthest in opposite sides, top left and bottom right, ripples in the sky or space-time. It was so bizarre, as if I was peering into a void of nothingness. Now that I think about it, I don’t believe I have ever seen something as pitch black as the moon was right then and there, surrounded by light.

Something else also occurred to me a couple of days later, but Shiva is often depicted with a little crescent moon on his head, but it’s very bright. In a way, it kind of makes me think of when the moon was leaving totality, which I saw with my own eyes for maybe a little too long, captivated.

The broadcast blaring was behind us a bit and I attribute that a little bit of looking for too long. For a while on the top right was a semi-circle of red, a sign it was ending soon. I did notice the bailey beads but I was too captivated. Soon it was more and more. I saw little tiny poking light and then where it started a great beam of light emerge and a light crescent reappear… much like but brighter than Shiva’s crescent moon before I looked away (although flipped vertically).

My Reaction, and Comparison to Expectations

A lot of what I read talked it up; partial is nothing compared to totality, it is worth the trip, it’s mind blowing, it’s life changing, you want to see it again right after, nothing compares…

I think, a lot of what also contributed to the anti-climatic nature is I was expecting some kind of strong automatic, physical reaction. I had read about sudden drops in temperature, the feeling of all that radiation stopping and you noticing it in a “six sense” kind of way, and the way wildlife reacted.

I realize now a lot of what people described as their emotional reaction to those things. Had I never experienced my reaction though before, I might think it was more magical than it really was. The best I can compare it to is a near death experience, of which I’ve had a few. My emotional brain shutoff, and I went into a time-distorted fight or flight type of reaction. Seeing the sun disappear I felt as I said almost overwhelmed… and I think this was my physical reaction.

Despite my heightened spiritual state of mind, right after those few seconds I felt connected to it, I was emotionally numb. I felt numb all over and still do days later about the events, even when I recall that first sight of the black Moon and the Sun’s Corona burned in my memory. I felt as I do when in a near-death situation. The one it reminds me of most is when I almost went under a car a few years ago on a bike. Time slowed down and I made a very calculated, very conscious decision in a split second that saved my life and the rest was a fast blur as I committed.

So my memory isn’t actually very good for a lot of the event outside of those moments I felt it was most spiritual. I guess It was this “oh crap the sun is gone” kind of survival reaction… but I do recall the annoying broadcast and people trying to look at the way animals reacted and seeing Venus or Jupiter. I felt as if I was disappointing with it, but I realized it was more how I approached it and the setting I was seeing it in.

For me I didn’t even notice that crickets were out until it ended. I had seen Venus and Jupiter before (Venus most often), but never the Eclipse, which is what I was after. Despite that, I do remember where I was the most aware very fondly. There was a lot of little details and stuff I couldn’t of noticed had I not actually went and I’m glad I did despite everything else.

The Receding Moon and Receding Connection

Later I would see the drone footage and realize that during the entire thing it was like sunset on every horizon, but it being like night all over the ground and in the middle of the sky. I did notice however during the event that as it ended though light suddenly flooded and returned day, albeit very weird twilight-y day, to use in just moments. Seeing the sun come back was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen in my life.

Thankfully I read up on the subject and I didn’t seem likely to suffer any damage and since I’ve not noticed anything out of the ordinary, although I did see a splotch in my vision for about 10 minutes. Seems if i had looked for 5-10 seconds longer I had a high chance of causing some permanent damage, however.

I stayed outside for a while, trying to take in anything I could after it was over. But due to everything I kind of couldn’t. Yes, a lot of the event itself was anti-climatic for a lot of preparation and environmental reasons… but I felt i kind of saw what I had to or could… the intense build up and few seconds in which I just saw it as if it and myself was all that existed, and then the end where the sun returned.

In a way, I kind of feel I came close to a sense of nonduality in the lead up and first few seconds before I was dragged back to this reality. Next time, I want to go alone or with like minded people who can just enjoy the moment.

That’s what I actually found anti-climatic about it, not the wonderful event itself where I felt that temporary, limited oneness… but coming back down to this world, and this life. It returned but less-so at the end as the sun was nearing and did come back out, but I still feel as if I missed much of it. I hate that feeling.

But I’m still going to see any future total Eclipse the moment I get a chance to, and that time, I’ll be prepared.

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