The day after I returned home from NYLT, my family drove up to Salem, Oregon to see the Solar Eclipse. We had previously purchased tickets through OMSI to see it at the State Fairgrounds with some family friends.
Honestly, during that weekend I was the walking dead, having been around so many people that past week at camp and now going up to large city to see this big astronomical event added to my tiredness. The biggest thing weighing on my mind was that during the week I was at NYTL, the entire state was covered in fires. In fact, there had been one only two miles away from the location of camp.
All week, I could see the helicopters flying and at night when everyone was fast asleep, I could hear the crackle of fire. Having lived in the area previously, I knew what this meant; knowing a fire was so close put a lot of stress on my mind. Most disturbing was learning at the end of camp that the leaders had known about it and yet had decided not to inform the campers. Despite my exhaustion, I knew I would regret not seeing the total eclipse for the rest of my life so I pulled myself through.
The sun was predicted to be completely obscured at 10:18 am Pacific Time. For many reasons this particular Solar Eclipse was special, but I presume that you’ve already heard those before. I had been planning what I was going to do once the eclipse finally started and had been anticipating drawing in my sketchbook the process of the eclipse all the way through totality.
My family and I work up early that morning to get breakfast and a good parking place. We had bunked for the night at one of my mom’s friend’s house, as our attempts to book a hotel even a year in advance had proven futile as everywhere was either reserved or had the prices had been set exorbitantly high. We slept outside in their backyard, borrowing their hammocks, and the feeling of the weekend being a celebration of the sky and it’s lunar events, was further solidified.
We met our friends at the fairgrounds. Crowds of people were mulling about the fairgrounds, perusing tables of the vendors and those of non-profit organizations all relating to astronomy and science. One of the booths had a small activity set up where you could hole-punch a piece of paper in different designs so that you could take a picture of the eclipse’s shadow showing through all the little holes. At another booth, there were a bunch of shirt, stickers, and buttons. There were buttons, flyers, and stickers given out free of charge. In addition to taking a few of the freebies, I bought a shirt that had the design of the eclipse and listing all the places where there would be totality.
The weather in Salem was perfect for viewing the eclipse, however other locations were not so lucky. We heard reports on social media of the skies in central Oregon filled with smoke from the fires and as is usual on the coast, an entrenched fog.
The event of totality itself was… it was indescribable, however I will try to capture it in words to the best of my capabilities. When everything went dark and we could look at the sun without burning our eyes, I didn’t believe what I was seeing. Of course, I had seen pictures and drawings from previous solar eclipses, but it was entirely different in person.
As I stared up at this large astronomical object, sitting on the ground, I felt small. Yet in my gut was an urge, a need, a desperate ache to redefine the world. To break all the rules and to create from the ashes, a society of intellectual people who are not afraid to admit that they do not know everything and to go out in search for answers. It was in that moment, in those 2 minutes and 40 seconds, I thought this: ‘I can achieve anything and everything to which I put my mind.’ How can an astrological event put these overwhelming thoughts in my head? Why was I frozen in place? As I looked at the united moon and sun, my hand drew frantically on it’s own accord, without instruction.
Truly, the solar eclipse of 2017 was something beyond me entirely. To feel so motivated, powerful, unstoppable is a feeling that I have had only a few times in my life. I think I will be chasing after that feeling and solar eclipses for the rest of my life.