Floating somewhere inside our unconscious minds is a perfect place. We pass quickly through it each night on the way toward dreamland, momentarily conscious that the world around is free of the rules and laws inflicted by order and physics. We see things we know can't be real, and pleasure in watching these special effects of the mind. I have been shown the place on earth where this place is real. Where rules of order are bent and warped as we observe absurd happenings around us in awe and disbelief, within the path of a Total Solar Eclipse.
The plan and the journey sound just as absurd too, when we chose to plant ourselves in an invisible mathematical path in an empty spot on the plane of a distant country. I had seen the pictures, I had seen the movies, and watched reactions of others, but had no idea what I was about to experience. Tensions built, anxiety heightened and whispers of anticipation grew into a near frenzied uproar in those who were destined to be there, as the magical day and hour approached.
We prepared our equipment and tapped our feet, nervously pacing in anxious excitement. Having sold our shirts to endure resistance and conquer obstacles to reach this place, we each fret the possibility of failure up until that last real moment of first contact.
"No Clouds!". It's whispered. It's announced. It's shouted across the valley as the moon creeps invisibly closer to the disk of the sun. A timer beeps and releases the cry, "First Contact!" It's happening we know; but still we must wait. I paced like an expectant father, impatient enough to discard the introduction and hurry ahead to the main event. But when I placed the glasses to my face and looked up at our disc, it began to hit me that I knew nothing. This was the same spot I had seen, examined and been accompanied by every day of my life, being snipped into, frame by frame from some invisible thing. As the back half of my brain was trying to rationalize how something could dominate our sun and be logically acceptable, the front half continued to see the oddities compound. I watched in disbelief as the temperature gauge we had set moved down through the numbers as if it were unplugged or malfunctioning. I wanted to shake it to be sure of what I saw. It was an illogical effect and was moved back to the shelf with the growing stack of improper observations. As the light dimmed, into twilight, I noticed I was blinking and blinking to clear the fog from my eyes. The white stayed white, but color evaporated into the cooling air and disappeared with the degrees. No dimmer switch could make this odd light. No special effects crew stood behind the mountain with fans and switches. I noticed over the mountain to the west, that a darkness of looming stormclouds was building and spreading toward us in mounting apprehension. But I knew there were no clouds. So, I had begun to absorb this peculiar display just as that little moment of bliss when our eyes are only shut long enough to drift away. But this wasn't the end... It was only the beginning. That bizarre effect of light and dark and cool and still was only the introduction... Moans and screeches welled up in harmony in the crowd as the cold and dark grew just as our roller coaster car began to crest it's tallest hump. The sky was now alive and celestial objects had grown the skill to slide and move visibly upon each other! The moon took one last breath and slid its body boldly over the sun in a magnificent act of glory! One last brilliant stream of light erupted in a heavenly spectacle from the sun as if in a final stabbing effort to defeat death. But only as brief as the moment of death, faster than the eye could perceive, these actors were replaced with a new mystical icon. Wings of pure hypnotizing white light sprayed softly out from its body made of that hole where our logic had spilled. The crowd fell away and I was surrounded by utter muffled silence. It was real! It was happening! I could see it and feel it and hear the truth of what this event was and then fell to my knees in surrender and awe as the blind man healed now with divine power to see. I turned my head away to look around, blinking the stream of tears from my eyes and saw only more twilight reality frozen in time around me. Scrambling to remember my tasks I had planned, I realized I was horribly derelict in my duties of recording the event. "I can see it!" I repeated, and reeled in the knowledge that the miraculous act of finding myself here was dwarfed by the magnitude and magnificence of the experience. So what was the point of snapping shots that can't represent the encompassing phenomenon of this moment? I went ahead and wasted my time and performed my jobs as assigned, though only as far as necessary while frozen jaw down and eyes up at this "THING". But hark! I began to see detail. Molten ruby eruptions of glassy light swirled in pockets around the disk. I could notice the strings of soft flailing light had patterns pulling out from blackness - or in - you wouldn't know. I remembered suddenly, to look for Venus in the dark sky and backed my focus away enough to glimpse the bright spark only quick enough to keep from blinking. Just as a leprechaun is bound by the ties of your stare, I didn't dare lose hold of this line of sight for it might blink away. I heard in the distance, the motorized clicks from our other cameras, then was returned to only the dim sound of solar wind against the water. Shaking my head in disbelief, I could feel the bulge of anticipation as an inevitable end edged in upon us. First, a glow of discernible lightness crept in around the moon's edge. Then a spark, and just as sudden as the last, that giant shard of white crystal light burst triumphantly in the sun's ultimate victory. I watched it heave the exhausted moon over across itself and push it off to slide back away again. More dramatic than a battle or sports victory, or the end of a pressing and involving tale, I turned my glance away in streaming tears, now needing to find the others and share our joy.
We are a family of survivors now. Not survivors of the experience. Survivors of the life that we must endure knowing we are not in this place for more than those few fleeting moments. It was gone. The darkened room looked natural and normal as we floated around on the cold sand. Our measurements showed a 40-degree drop. So what. "Did you see that?" How rhetorical to ask, but everyone did. I looked back up again; but only forced to filter the sight with my protective goggles. It was slipping away. I blinked again and again, gawking up into the sky. "It happened! It was real!" The logical brain was now shouting to my skeptical consciousness. So, we all wandered around in the euphoric glow of the dark, from embrace to smiling embrace. I could hear each sniffle and shout from the crowd that was only minutes earlier, as silent to me as the sea.
We rewound our film and chuckled about or lapses in reason as we went about the careful preservation of our images. But then, with the disappointment of the child after all the presents are opened, I watched in growing dismay as all the cases and cameras and equipment were disassembled and packed quietly away into their trunks. The murmur of camaraderie wandered quietly away as the crowds moved to our waiting busses and dissolved into nothingness. "Come on, sweetie. It's time to go." He said, ten paces off. "You mean we're done?" I whined. It can't be over. It only lasted a second. I didn't want it to end and stood stubbornly for a moment, grieving the event's passing. I closed my eyes and wished so hard that I could place myself back onto that twilight zone. But just like that perfect lucid dream state... I can't go back and will spend the next 18-month long day wishing my way toward that next accidental rift in space as it streams across us once again.
~ ©1999 Jennifer Dudley Winter