Where Has All the Darkness Gone? In Search of the Eclipse


Later this week, Bruce and I head to Oregon for the total eclipse. The closest I have ever been to one was when I was a little girl growing up in London. I  can't remember special eclipse glasses, so I'm not sure if we were all in danger of going blind or told not to look up. Or perhaps we used a DIY pinhole projector. All that is unclear. What I do remember is the unearthly feeling, the twilight sky. I also grew up during the time of the pea-soup fogs, when the London air was so thick and yellow from coal dust you couldn't see an inch in front of you. Darkness wasn't uncommon in the middle of the day. My mother, 9-months pregnant with my brother, got lost with my father one night in one of the classic pea soupers of 1953. They ended up roaming around Regent's Park for hours, and then, finally, clinging from lamppost to lamppost, found their way home in the small hours of the morning.

Up until the late 19th century, when electric lights became prevalent, darkness was a natural part of our lives. The seasons effected us directly. In fall and winter, we experienced more intensely the shorter days, the lengthening shadow of night. In spring, we awoke like trees unfurling their leaves, as the sun penetrated our being for ever longer stretches. Now, the lights of our cities burn so brightly they upset the migrating patterns of birds. Accustomed to navigating by moon and stars, they are drawn to the light and crash into illuminated buildings.

Birds need the black of night to find their way home.

I can walk around my valley at night by lamp light, the stars above dimmed by the blaze of lights on Earth. This seems not just a loss of beauty, but of soul. We forget that dark matter and dark energy comprise 95% of the universe. We are creatures of darkness.

They expect millions of visitors along the track of the total eclipse, which stretches from Oregon to South Carolina. There are people who become so hooked on eclipses they chase them all across the planet.  No wonder. Before so-called enlightened humans turned on the switch and banished darkness, it, too, was our home.

And so, come Thursday, Bruce and I set off to experience this primal and powerful event.  And love that for all our human ingenuity, we cannot escape the moment when the moon thrusts her body between sun and Earth, and darkness descends.

I'll tell you about my eclipse experience in my next newsletter, and look forward to hearing about yours. Meanwhile, let me know about your relationship to darkness.