A large part of the country will shortly be able to view a full solar eclipse and excitement is rising as predictably as the sun in the morning. It certainly makes a happy change from the usual news down here on an increasingly fried planet. Or does it?
Some people have paid big money to secure accommodations in those areas where the celestial show promises to be most spectacular. They will climb mountains to have a better view, on the theory I suppose that being 10,000 feet closer to a body 93 million miles away will be like being next door.
Of course, Aug. 21 might be cloudy and rainy. The sun and the moon will do their sky dance but there’s no trusting the weather to behave while it manages the stage. Like the old saying goes, you put your money down, you take your chance and, in this case, you bring a raincoat just in case.
So I think I might save some money and avoid disappointment by staying home and looking out the window. Where I live in (semi) retirement in California, the eclipse is expected to be only about 70 percent. I should have stayed in Pittsburgh, where it will be 81 percent. Nevertheless, I am told by marital management that we are to climb a local peak anyway. Maybe I can persuade her to climb only 70 percent up.
Look, I don’t mean to spoil anybody’s fun but it seems to me that there’s nothing much new here, especially to those of us in those partial-eclipse parts of the country that we are partial to. So what if it is going to be dark? It is dark every night. I could reset my watch at night to midmorning if I wanted the thrill of novelty. Besides, we have all lately experienced a lunar shadow falling on the great lantern lighting our lives (a lunatic shadow, more precisely).
I speak of the light of reason having lately gone into eclipse. The shadow of buffoonery has fallen on it and left us in the dark. We stumble about like poor creatures trying to make sense of everything. It’s dark when it should be light. What time is it anyway? Suddenly, it’s half-past 1957.
Or else — and here’s an alternative metaphor for the benefit of the dark-and-stormy-mind community — someone has negotiated a deal to fire the traditional elite sun, perhaps for leaking too many sunbeams and making an inconvenient political statement about global warming.
The old sun has been replaced by a dazzling, alternative yellow orb of light that promised it would not look down on people, although of course it can’t do otherwise from its lofty and privileged position.
The new sun also hopes to build a wall between it and the moon and make the moon pay for it. So much for free trade in green cheese. Moreover, no cows will be allowed to jump over the moon for security reasons. They could be moo-lahs, after all.
This new sun is a huge body, full of gas and hot plasma, glorious in its terrible eruptions, with golden streamers coming off its face like solar flares. They make up a giant comb-over in the sky never before seen in our generation. When it has one of its solar storms, global communications are disrupted by an astronomical number of tweets.
Lots of people who should have known better were blinded by the light, something that no less a luminary than Manfred Mann warned about. These myopic sun worshippers heeded no advice and this is what they get for looking at any sun without the proper protective eyewear, whether that sun is in the sky or in the political firmament.
In the latter case, some people put on rose-colored glasses and all they can see now is blurry images of what is actually going on. No wonder their defense of this new sun is increasingly half-baked.
The only safe way to watch this sun is to cut a small hole in the newspaper, hold it up to the sky and project an image of light on to another page. By happy chance, perhaps the beam will alight on a headline that says, “White House Does Another Dumb Thing.” That is a standing headline these days in any paper honestly doing its job.
When will this phenomenon of scorching, pitiless sun in the day be eclipsed? That’s the total eclipse I am looking for. For that, I’d climb any mountain.
Reg Henry is a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org