Friday, May 25, 2012

Eclipse Diary, Part 4 - Afterthoughts

Chris at Lassen Park
The next morning, my friend and eclipse-buddy Chris and I drove up to Lassen Volcanic National Park, as she had never been there before and it seemed a shame to drive all the way and not see any of it. The road was closed by snow only a few miles past the entrance, but we stopped to goggle at the snow-draped mountains and sulfur vents. As the perfect ending to our adventure, we met a trio of avid cross-country skiers, preparing for the day’s outing. We swapped eclipse stories and theirs topped ours, hands down. They’d made the ascent to the top of Lassen, broken open a bottle of champagne while they watched the eclipse, and then skied back down.

Eclipse Skiing Party
Looking back, I’m struck by the wide range of knowledge of the people we encountered – from the astronomer who had not only his telescope (with solar lens) and camera (with solar lens), but everything hooked up to a laptop, and the physicist who explained to anyone who asked how a pinhole camera works and why the Moon looks red in a lunar eclipse, to the wine-sippers who hadn’t even realized when the eclipse began or what they were seeing. I fell somewhere in between. I want to understand what I’m seeing, but at heart, I’m more interested in what it means in the lives of the people who, to varying degrees and for varying reasons, formed a spontaneous community. I want to spin it all into stories. I suppose that’s why I’m a writer and not an astronomer.

But it sure was cool.

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