On August, 21st there was a solar eclipse.
Although it wasn’t total in Toronto, there was about 75% coverage and a friend of ours decided to invite some people over for a picnic and watch it from a blanket spread on the grass.
I never much thought about it, but I suppose eclipses have always made me a little nervous. Beyond the typical anxiety about accidentally looking up at the sun and having your sight destroyed forever (as if a punishment for seeing a Goddess disrobe),
or the fear of suddenly being seized by a compulsion to look up at the sun and having your vision destroyed forever, there is also the certainty that somebody is going to draw an apocalyptic line from the prophecies of Nostradamus to the activities of Donald Trump, always leaving you to wonder, “Is this going to be it, are these my last moments on earth?”
And so there was a slight unease in the city, as if something in our organized, convenient and mechanized lives had been thrown just a bit off kilter. What we had always relied on, what had always remained fixed in our lives, was about to shift out of place.
Looking up through the glasses at the retreating sun was weird. It seemed like clockwork, the perfection of the orbs, the synchronicity, all suggesting something made by design rather than accident, and I found that I could not watch for too long. I suppose I was worried about my eyes, but I think there was something larger to it, as well—I had to look away. It was all too big and mysterious, boundless in all directions.
And on the street passing by were people we’d call over to have a look, and they did. Cars stopped, strangers smiled and people gathered around our little blanket.
It reminded me of a city-wide power failure. Released from the secure and known, people were at a kind of liberty, uninhibited and accessible in ways that Tuesday afternoon Torontonians typically are not.
And as the eclipse reached it’s full extent, you could see that the light in the city had changed. It had grown thinner, like somebody had started to turn the dimmer down, and the air felt cooler and lower to the ground, as if a fog was rolling over the streets. I noticed that I didn’t hear any birds at all, and the recognition of this secondary vanishing made me feel like I was on the edge of something.
And so it was that we watched.
All gathered together, by chance and design, each one having traveled through bad weather and heartbreak, each one certain there would be more to come. And at this spot we took comfort in one another. Each one of us so small– our lives precarious, vulnerable and now, in the midst of something that reached so far beyond us, so very much the same.