Last Monday, August 21st, 2017 a total solar eclipse crossed the United States coast to coast for the first time since 1918. The last total eclipse to cross a portion of the Northwest was 1979. Although solar eclipses happen every 18 months or so around the world, it’s not everyday we get to see the moon completely cross in front of the sun in our little corner of the world. As it happened, my grandparents own farms near where the path of totality fell in central Oregon, and it was a perfect opportunity to get together with family and friends and experience the rare event.
We weren’t quite sure where to pull off the road when we headed out early on the 21st south on Highway 97, but it wasn’t long until we found the perfect spot among the wheat fields. Hoards of people came out for the event from all over the world. Cars lined the highways and camps were set up throughout the tiny towns along the way. In the true American farming communities of Sherman county, everyone knows each other, and so after spending time scouting locations, we were just lucky enough to escape the roadside attractions onto a neighbor’s property.
After setting up a lookout, a scene out of a science fiction film unfolded while we sat with our solar eclipse glasses on the plains of central Oregon watching as the moon passed incrementally in front of the sun. Through the glasses, it looked like a paper mache stop motion animation as a black crescent moon blotted out an orange sun. Without the glasses, it was impossible to tell that the sky would soon turn to night.
But as the total eclipse drew near, the surrounding light filled the valleys with an ombre hue of pinks and oranges. Such an incredibly unique light, the moon finally passed in front of the sun and reached totality. The glasses came off and the sky darkened with a bit of remaining light outside of the zone reigning in the distance. It was eerily quiet as if only for those few seconds, we were the only people on earth. The white ring representing the sun looked extraterrestrial.
And then it was over as fast as it came. The total eclipse lasted for barely a few minutes, but the experience of being in the zone of totality was well worth the drive (and subsequent traffic). We hopped back on the road and waited our turn with the throng of cars, making their journey home from the mecca of day turned night, night turned to day in the matter of minutes.