There was certainly a lot of hoopla about that recent eclipse, right?  Sure, the sun, the moon. We get it, a shadow makes it dark. Sun sets every day and nobody freaks out about it. It just happens. But still… 

Stormy and I started thinking about wanting to see a total eclipse a few years ago. That was 2017 and Denver was in the partial-eclipse path, so we did the thing about projecting through a pinhole to see the partial sun crescent but we didn’t get the glasses and we didn’t really get “the big deal” of it. We knew some friends who drove up to Wyoming to see the full show, and they had a better time than we did. Eclipses happen every few years more or less, but they can be anywhere in the world. We like to travel, but it might not be in the cards for us to chase the event all over the globe. It was considerate of the sun and the moon to get together this year and do their “Totality” show so conveniently close to us in Colorado, so we chose a spot down near Dallas to go and take a look. It bears mentioning that the next appearance in the USA won’t be until we’re 100 years old. We’ll plan to be there maybe, but just in case we’re busy that day… we decided this was the year to experience it. 

We hit the road on a windy day, after battening down the deck chairs so they would be there for our return since gusts up to 80 mph were expected. Ahh, Colorado in the spring. Heading south on I-25 we were held up a bit by travel nuisances such as a camper overturned across the highway by the wind, and an 18-wheeler on its side. It gave us time to enjoy the scenery, and we were probably more appreciative of the extent to which the trees and vegetation illustrated the seasonal change as we went south. Scrub oak and mesquite were leafless and bare until we passed south of Amarillo, and from there down to Dallas the scene changed like a time-lapse movie, the gradual change of seasons accelerated by the passing of mileposts. Mile by mile, the grasses and vegetation grew greener and greener until, nearing Dallas, the roadsides and rolling hills looked like lush glades and forests from the Emerald Isle. When we remarked on the greenery on arriving at our hotel, the receptionist said yes, they’ve had a lot of rain. Like anywhere in the West though, we all know it means more fire danger when it inevitably dries out. Life lesson: enjoy it while you can.  

Some of those rainclouds threatened our chances of a good view of the eclipse the following day. The morning started out with a vivid pink sunrise and clear skies, but the gray overcast grew stronger until it seemed our chances would be blotted out. Along with our son Joel and his wife Michelle, we headed off to his friends’ home where a small group gathered as guests for the day. Jimmy and Katie lived right in the path of totality. We were there early, starting with breakfast for the mid-afternoon eclipse. Stanimira 1prepared breakfast Bulgarian style with pastries, fruit, and coffee. Mimosas added a continental touch. That blended into lunch and the party swung into the expected time of the eclipse, when the rain lifted and the clouds started to lighten up. 

Patches of blue! A reprieve from the clouds yielded to a patchy sky with thinning wisps of gray as we moved chairs and blankets outside to watch the show. A music playlist filtered over congenial conversations – and If I never hear “Total Eclipse of the Heart” again it will be too soon. Excited chatter as the moon took the first little bite out of the sun, viewed through the special sunglasses. It took over an hour before the light started to dim noticeably, and then the darkening accelerated as the sun seemed to go through waning moon phases. With less than a quarter showing, it was still fairly light, but eerie. Colors were sharper. I was wearing a blue shirt and it seemed to glow. A friend’s red jacket turned deep maroon. The air chilled. We heard the birds. They were worrying about the oncoming night, loudly calling and seemingly excited or – we can imagine – alarmed. As the last wisp of the slim crescent of sun disappeared to complete the full coverage I took off my glasses and glimpsed a bright sharp white diamond flash on the edge of the black circle. Just an instant, like an old-fashioned big flashbulb on a camera. Then the coverage was complete, and it lasted just under 4 minutes. I had my camera with me but I was so entranced I could only look, to take mental pictures that would be filed in my mind. Friend Kira gave me this one.

Total solar eclipse in Dallas, April 8, 2024. Photo frm Kira Niccum-Pritzl.

When the moon completely obscured the sun we were plunged into a darkness not like midnight but more like the evening dusk soon after the stars come out. Of course we expected the darkness – that’s what we were there for – but still it was stunning. It was deep blue-black overhead, but lighter on the horizon all around. The street lights in a nearby suburban development came on. The birds, so active moments before, went silent. The sun’s corona became visible. It was unlike anything else in all my years of seeing the world and its wonders. Stars appeared, and the sky took on a deep twilight hue. The couple who were our hosts run a skydiving company,2 and knew where to look and see two of their clients coming down in parachutes in the distance, silhouetted against the sky. I felt a mix of wonder and awe. It was palpable in our group. There were gasps and shrieks. Someone turned the music back up – it had been muted in anticipation – and there was that damn song. The birds stirred themselves up again and greeted a new day. We were all left with a sense of amazement and gratitude for witnessing the celestial dance. The party continued, and wound down, and friends parted until another time. Changed. Eclipsed. I will remember these moments all my life.  

Our trip back home to Colorado included a stop in Amarillo to see Stormy’s sister and her family, and a mile-by-mile rewind of the seasonal change from south-latitude spring with its lush greenery back to our Rocky Mountain spring. It’s tan and dry so far this year but the chilly breezes still carry the vague threat of more tree-branch-busting snows. 

Next total eclipse in the USA: 2045. I recommend it. Colorado will be in the path of totality. Jimmy and Katie, we’ll host the party.  

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  1. I wrote about our remarkable friend back in 2021: Stanimira
  2. Shut up and Jump Tandem Skydiving

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