Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Preparing for the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017

Where will you be on August 21? Will you be on the line of totality? We are almost right on it. All the cities along the path, including ours, are going ape-shit with preparations.

I don’t blame them—I would be freaking out, too, if I was a public planner, or a utilities manager: No one really knows how many people, and how many cars, will be arriving here (when? how far ahead of time?) for the big event. Will the our city’s ancient water mains be able to handle the additional demand? What about the sewers? And the electricity?

I understand three or four new cell towers have been erected in the state to handle all the expected selfies and videos and pics, and all the phone calls and texts—electronic radio traffic—that will flood the digital networks.

Will the roadways be completely choked? How soon will we have to leave to get to the viewing site we’ve picked out (in a soybean field in the Missouri River bottomlands—I won’t say more than that), so we don’t get trapped in traffic that isn’t moving?

How soon should I gas up my car? Will the gas stations run out?

Good golly.

I have an aunt (my mom’s sister) and cousins, and my brother and one of his sons, coming to Missouri for the eclipse. Actually, it’s a family reunion, with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the total eclipse being the impetus, the occasion, for the get-together.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out; who goes where to view the spectacle. And how we will all feel afterward. I, personally, am expecting a profound experience.

I read a recent article in the Atlantic that talked about the potential boost that science education might get from this breathtaking event—basically, that people who are accustomed to thinking of themselves, their town, their country, their religion, their planet, as being the center of the universe, will be forced to acknowledge the awesome enormity of the universe—and that we’re mere specks, both in space and in time. And this might get people enthused about science itself.

There’s really not a lot for me to say about the total eclipse that isn’t being said, but I urge you, beseech you, to read Annie Dillard’s 1982 essay “Total Eclipse,” which is so well written that college English comp teachers use it as an example of a well-crafted essay. It’s available in a number of places online. It’s utterly brilliant. Please do read it!