22 August 2017

[OR_liff] An Oregon Solar Eclipse Journal, 21 August 2017.

Welcome to a place whose descriptive phrase, the mid-Willamette Valley, cause my heart to sing like a finely-tuned instrument, and a minute many of us have been waiting for for rather a few years was impending.

Work let me go on time at 7:00 AM. We were on the road southbound by 8:15 AM, flying by the seat of our pants, as is our way. A number of plans danced through our heads up until now, but we knew, in our heart, the only practical one was hit the road and get as far south as we could by 10:15 AM, and that was the bones, sinew, and details of the thing. No more, no less.

At 9:40 AM, we found ourselves cruising down the main drag on the east side of Woodburn, Oregon, N. Pacific Hwy. Just north of Young Avenue, where Hwy 214 enters town, there is, wonder of all wonders - an Arctic Circle. We suddenly know where our eclipse brunch is happening. The latitude and longitude pair 45° 8' 15.468'' N, 122° 50' 36.8268'' W is near enough within a few feet where the nose of the old Subaru warhorse was parked in the parking lot, by the front door. Getting down as far as Woodburn was a boon, especially considering the traffic-ocalypse we were promised prior to the apocalypse. We saw many pullouts on our way down: the two weigh stations by the Wilsonville-Hubbard cutoff were neatly but tightly stocked with lookers, and there's a lot that the Hop Festival uses in downtown Hubbard that had happy people arrayed about in lawn chairs, eclipse glasses firmly in place, following faithfully the Horkheimer dictum keep looking up. 

On the 21st of August 2017, Hwy 99E was the place to be.

Once in Woodburn we started looking for a good parking space, which was also no challenge. When the Arctic Circle hove into view, The Wife™ squealed with delight and I found the empty parking lot most welcoming. Our meal, and our vantage, was set.

The remainder of this is a stream of pictures, arranged in the order I took them by the time coded into the metadata. The actual times may vary by several seconds, of course.

09:41 AM PDT

The view north (toward Portland) on N. Pacific Hwy.

... and the view south (toward Salem).

10:09 AM PDT. 

Our own 'pinhole camera': a square of foamcore which projected a little fingernail-shaped sliver of Sun on another white piece of foamcore ... or even the white tabletops outside the Arctic Circle.

10:12 AM PDT.

The Wife™ said she'd seen the sunlight go a little wan. I didn't see it at first, but comparing it with the first photos above, it's now kind of obvious. The sunshine is a bit off, almost imperceptibly, but it's going there. There's a sepia tone to the sunlight and the atmosphere now.

We are now about six minutes out from start of totality.

10:15 AM PDT.

I've just now noticed that the lights in the Arctic Circle's sign have come on.

10:16 AM PDT.

The contrast between the lighted sign and the environment is now more palpable. A sort of duskiness has begun to tone the sky down.

10:17:07 AM PDT.

While still quite light out, the sign lights for the business next door have come on. The dark feels as though it's an actively gathering thing. The sky is deepening to an indigo toward the zenith.

10:17:17 AM PDT.

As above, only moreso. Color is being neutralized from the world around us. There is now a strange tension in the air that I can't describe - or maybe it's just me, keyed up from the expecation.

We are just about one minute out from totality.

10:17:42 AM PDT.

The sky to the west (looking west-northwest over the Arctic Circle) seems to have acquired a delicate pall of darkness. We are  about 35 seconds, give or take, out from totality.

10:18:05 AM PDT.

It might be a subjective thing, again, but the feeling of being borne down on by the arrival of the umbra is a thing that is almost solid in the mind. Anyone who doubted that anything would happen would stop doubting now.

The visual contrast between the still-daylit (but just barely) sky and the now-energized lot lights and building illumination is so discordant that the mind begins to bend a little. On the horizon, in every direction, an orange tinge more appropriate for sunset than mid-morning.

Everything you look at contradicts itself.

10:18:20 AM PDT.

The edge of the umbra arrives at Woodburn, Oregon. The semi-darkness goes from unreal to surreal.

10:18:30 AM PDT. Totality.

It's a peculiar (in the singular way as well as the full-tilt-boogie way) darkness in the heart of the shadow. It's as dark as a moonlit night, but there is something about the darkness that it is imbued with an eerie light rather much unlike that of the full moon: it's a light inside the darkness. The air hushes, then a light breeze goes up. You feel the temperature decrease ever-so-slightly. The orange sunset is a 360-degree thing, anointing all horizons in every directions equally; you are struck with th realization that you are looking outside the shadow, which does a thing to your perceptive POV, and you realize that a mere handful of miles separate you from that area.

10:19:20 AM, PDT.

By my reckoning, we are a little more than halfway through totality. It took a few more precious seconds to find my foot in this fleeting new world than I'd like, because right now the mind is in overdrive, striving to create in the memory an indelible record of everything one is seeing.

Here, by the way, is the star performer:

It's not ideal, but for a snapshot on a digital camera taken without fiddling around with any settings, more than enough to be a lifetime's treasure.

10:19:40 AM PDT.

A tighter shot of the omni-directional sunset. A contrail glows there. The traffic signal at Young Avenue and Pacific Highway is neon in its scintillation.

10:19:49 AM PDT.

The obscured Sun competes with a streetlamp. The streetlamp is winning, for now.

10:20:05 AM PDT.

The eclipse about to do the "diamond ring", the gracenote that heralds the end of totality. We have been in the dark for pretty close to two minutes now.

During the times I wasn't snapping photos, me and The Wife™ were looking directly at the eclipsed Sun. They tell you not to look at the Sun during an eclipse, and that's true in the main. We take it as read that the Sun is incredibly bright; consider that you can have up to 99 per cent of the Sun's disk covered and it's still difficult to tell for sure that any light has been occluded at all. Partial eclipses are cool, but that's still the blinding sun, and it will damage your eyes just as surely as a totally uncovered sun will.

But once the Sun is completely occulted, and only so long as it's completely occulted, you can chance a look. One still must be careful; when you see the diamond ring, it's a few split seconds before you must look away. We watched that bead of light erupt on the rim of that perfect circle and then spread outward from there. We looked away before it got too bright.

Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun,
But Mama ... that's where the fun is.

10:20:36 AM PDT.

The light began to intensify and we're now back at a point where it's just kind of dusky.
That, and our minds are blown.

A once-in-a-lifetime thing. And if you couldn't be there, at least I could show you. It's a personal thing that will remain at the edge of my perception as long as I live now.

The drive down was - you might say - totally worth it. They don't leave total eclipses on your doorstep every week you know.

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