Darkness Visible

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Apparently there’s a solar eclipse this week. Unless you’ve been living in the dark you’re aware of it already, and how to protect yourself, and where to have the best view, and the history and lore and horror stories along with the science. Here on the bay we will be able to view about 86% of a total eclipse. That’s pretty good. It’s going to be one for the history books.

Speaking of which:

On August 21st Nat Turner killed fifty-five people in a slave revolt which caused panic among slaveholders everywhere. It has to be an entirely new level of tragic irony that 186 years later tension between those who wish to eliminate all remnants of the repulsive system of enslavement and those who wish to preserve the traditions of the south still throws a shadow on this land.

Casey struck out on August 21st.

The “Mona Lisa” was stolen, which is, by the way, the only reason the very small and somewhat unimpressive painting is so famous.

Emmett Till walked into Money, Mississippi, a week before he was murdered on one of the darkest days of the fifties.

In 1959 Hawaii became a State, and in 1968 the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia to end the Prague Spring casting a shadow on the light of creativity and freedom emerging from Bohemia.

Oh, and in 2017 a total eclipse of the sun could be spotted across the United States.

I’ve been walking along the river at sunset for more than twenty years now and they never get old, the way the sun tries like hell not to touch the horizon. And then the way it does, particularly on partly cloudy nights when the sky turns colors and the sun streams out from the edges of clouds. I try and watch the sunset nightly, and the sunrise as often as possible. I try and love the science of nature on a daily basis.

But this arc of the eclipse crossing the country couldn’t come at a better time. It will be like a moment of silence, where everyone along the path will stand outside in our goofy looking glasses and think about the crazy reality that because the sun is 400 times larger than the moon yet 400 times farther away, they both appear to be the same size. So we will watch the clock then go outside and mark time by the crossing of one in front of the other. It won’t last long, and later I’ll walk along the river again and wait for that same sun to settle down.

Maybe that moment of silence in the shadow of the moon when people are talking to each other about science, sharing stories of time and place, talking about the next time or the last time, will briefly take our minds off of the turmoil and terror that has cast its own shadow on the United States. Jeez, look at us: racism is rampant, hatred, brutality, murder, threat of nuclear war, the decline of the protection of nature, the fear of refugees fleeing conflict and starvation, the fear of each other, the fear of fear itself. Flint. Charlottesville. Chicago. The border wall. Transgender issues. Bannon. Spicer. DJT. Raging fires. The Paris Accord. North Korea. Syria.

Seriously, our beloved nation has been in some dark shadows for a while now, and it just might be this brief total eclipse is the brightest spot in quite some time.

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