Some thoughts on the total solar eclipse


By David Lindeman

Contributing columnist

The total eclipse that swept over us was billed as a once in a lifetime experience. When you do the math, I guess that’s accurate. The next total eclipse in the continental United States will be in 2044 and that will be in Montana, which is pretty much as close to the moon as you can get without being there. The next total eclipse in Ohio will be in 2099, by which time virtually everyone reading this will have gone through a personal eclipse and won’t be around to see it.

Since it is such a rare occurrence, I can’t let it go away without saying something about it.

As far as once in a lifetime events go, I have to say it was … well, actually pretty awesome. Yes, I meant to use that word. Awesome is a word that has lost some of its meaning – it is supposed to mean “an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder.” A guy dunking a basketball or hitting a home run is not awesome. But the eclipse lived up to the definition.

I can only imagine what people in early civilizations thought when all of the sudden one day the sun disappeared. The ancient Chinese thought a dragon was eating the sun and they would beat drums to scare it away. I imagine I’d be hitting that drum pretty hard in the middle of an eclipse. In Norway, they blamed the eclipse on the mischievous god Loki, who had some giant wolves who swallowed the moon.

But the ancients were way smarter than we give them credit for. Way back in the 5th or 6th century B.C. some of them could already predict eclipses. We think they held special events and religious ceremonies to please the gods during an eclipse, but they probably were just staging festivals to attract tourists so they could jack up the motel rates and charge out-of-towners for places to park their chariots. Some things never change.

Leading up to the eclipse, there was some concern that it would be cloudy or even raining – after all, it is Ohio in April. But eclipse day was one of the few sunny days we’ve had all spring.

Living through an eclipse certainly is a unique experience. When the Big Day arrived, some friends came over and we sat on our back patio with our goofy little eclipse glasses. It actually did get a little colder. The birds stopped singing. My outside lights went on. I have some tulips that actually started to close up. I have a friend who said his chickens rushed back to the coop, thinking it was time for bed. Another friend said a bunch of wasps flew into a small hole in his garage. He didn’t know that’s where they lived, but the eclipse ratted them out. I have a feeling the eclipse might really turn out to be a disaster for those wasps.

My two cats, meanwhile, rolled over and went back to sleep. It takes a lot to impress a cat.

Then it was over.

It only took a little bit of the sun to peek out to bring back a lot of light. Within a short period of time the world was back to normal, if you can call what is going on these days normal. The birds were singing, the chickens came out thinking that it sure was a short night and my cats rolled over again.

It didn’t seem to me that the eclipse was the overwhelming cosmic commercial event some people predicted. We were warned about massive traffic jams and hordes of tourists descending upon us like so many wasps heading home before it got dark. Schools, public buildings and some businesses closed. But everyone I talked to who was out that day said the traffic was no big deal. When I drove into work that morning I thought maybe COVID had come back – there was no one out. Later, at lunch time when I stopped at Kroger on my way home, I thought the store and the roads were pretty quiet. Maybe all the tourists went somewhere else – Darke County, for instance, has the perfect name if you were looking for somewhere to see an eclipse.

I’m not getting any younger and I suppose this could have been my last eclipse. In fact, scientists say that some day eclipses themselves will be a thing of the past. The moon is moving farther from the Earth at a rate of one inch a year and eventually that means it won’t be able to line up properly with the sun and there will be no more eclipses. They say this will happen in about 650 million years.

I’m betting there will be no more Earthlings long before there will be no more eclipses. But if someone is still around, you can bet on one thing – at that last eclipse, someone will be out there tripling rates for motel rooms and parking spaces.

David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected].

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