It began as an ordinary day. The sun rose early, before most of the people. Birds began their dawn songs. In the cabins, humans started to cook their breakfasts. Some rushed out to make their tee time.
But there was not a single soul on the mountain who did not know today was an extraordinary day and that this normally predictable golf resort was in an extraordinary place.
NASA has calculated the date and location of every solar eclipse since 2000 BCE and they have predicted every eclipse coming for the next thousand years. And yet, knowing that there have been so many instances and that there will be so many more did not change the feeling that were both observing and taking part of a singular, momentous event.
The day before the eclipse, we made our way to Garden Valley Idaho, to a mountain golf resort called Terrace Lakes (not one lake, never mind more than one). The sharing economy pulled through for us when in July I found what I firmly believe to be the last reasonably priced accommodation on the edge of the path of the totality. It just happened to be a two bedroom cabin- rooms of our own!
We stocked up in Boise. Upon arrival, the resort was in party mode. My highly romanticized dream of a quiet moment shared between us, the moon, the sun and the forest was immediately dashed. A live band played rock and country into the night, cycling through the same set at least twice. But since they were pretty good, one could forgive the Fleetwood Mac repeats.
As a location to watch the eclipse, we picked a perfect spot.
The morning of, we set our blanket down on the edge of the green of the first hole and settled in. Around us was a carnival. A DJ played sun-themed music. Children ran around. Eclipse themed craft beer was sold out of a tent. T-shirts for sale read: I blacked out during the 2017 eclipse.
Indeed, I was surprised by the number of people who, having made the special arrangement to be at this particular place on this particular day to see this once in a lifetime event, proceeded to drink their way through it. Much like my notion of spending the morning alone in a forest clearing, I should have known better.
We sat, watching the sun (with our solar viewers- yes, they were legit. Thanks, Amazon, for the refund, though) from thirty minutes before contact until just before the moon was completely separated.
Plenty has been written about the phenomena on Earth that happens when the moon blocks the sun. There are the physical effects: the temperature drops, the sky darkens. Humans and animal behavior changes. And there are the social effects: in 585 BCE, the Medes and Lydians were fighting in modern day Turkey. An eclipse occurred during the battle which had reached a draw. When the sky darkened they halted fighting and negotiated a peace treaty.
Even knowing that this day was coming, viewing the eclipse was a fundamentally life-altering event. In the moment just before totality, the sun flashed, suddenly winking out and just as suddenly light reappeared as a corona around the moon. Knowing what was to come had no effect on the stupendousness, the freakishness of it all.
Some people around us began howling. A teenage boy, live streaming, previously too cool for school, was in rapture.
I sat there and put my hand out, reaching for mom. “What?” I repeated, again and again.
Day was night.
True to character, I had decided going into the day that I was not going to take any photographs, that plenty of people with far better equipment and more experience would take care of that aspect so we should just savor the moment and really feel it.
And then the moon covered the sun and I was on my feet taking pictures with my cell phone. Bad pictures and okay panoramas.
When totality ended, the DJ came back. And that was that. Party time again.
For Wolf Mom and Snow Crane, it was the end of our adventure. The next morning we left while it was still dark and drove straight to Sacramento. It was a long drive, too long of a drive. But when you have just been witness to an event on the astronomical scale, what else do you want to see?