A total eclipse is much more than just a visual darkness. You can read plenty of firsthand accounts that describe near-paranormal feelings: a general body and skin tingling, or even a sense of communing with the universe. Totality is a powerful sight. The difference between seeing 98% of an eclipse and being in its direct path is everything.
I had to check with my mother to make sure I wasn’t inventing a memory of watching my first eclipse from a swimming pool in Mazatlán, Mexico. She sent me a picture of my father and brother taking a break from sunbathing as proof that I did not. Now imagine a busy family-friendly, kid-filled hotel pool, completely hushed for the minute or two of totality.
The communal experience of seeing a total eclipse in public, especially in that sort of crowded space, can be overwhelming. My second eclipse forwent that crowd experience when we managed a house exchange in the French countryside with a family that lived in the eclipse’s path. My family gathered in front of our remote borrowed estate, with Champagne that my teenage self was happy to be able to drink freely. During the totality, my humming kid brain went quiet. The memory of the eerie clarity in those few minutes is still clear, decades later.
My mother admits to being “a little terrified” for the scene at this eclipse. Witnessing totality is an eerie, almost paranormal feeling. The hordes of fellow travelers who made the pilgrimage to the line of totality will be seeing and feeling and hearing the same thing, all together. For a moment, thousands of people will be staring at a hole in the sky, pondering a sensation of the world coming to an end.
My mother is prepared with her own disaster provisions -- snacks, gas, sundries. She’s also packing a tongue-in-cheek resentment that her longtime obsession doesn’t come with some sort of seniority over all these new sun-tourists.
Part of me is glad I chose not to subject myself to that crowded madness. Seeing a total solar eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’m supremely lucky to have done twice. But I have to admit it’s bittersweet. The whole country has come around to my family’s passion, and for once, I’m resigned to watching the excitement from the outside.