The more the news talked about it the less I cared. There were more and more articles as Monday approached. What to wear, where to go, who to go with. They built it up like some combination of Super Bowl, Christmas, and the Fourth of July. This only served to make me determined to avoid the whole business.
Monday morning I rouse myself as I always do around 10 or 11am after bartending the night before. I send out the newsletter, take a shower, and walk to the coffee shop with a book and a notebook, intending to write, or, failing that, to read at least. But it isn’t to be.
I take my customary spot facing the pastry case. I like this table because I can eavesdrop on the action at the counter, see incoming customers reflected in the glass of the case, and track as its contents empty as afternoon turns to evening. When I was working on the painting above a few days before an acquaintance came up and asked what I was working on. I said it was a sort of history painting—a lowly sort of history since it was only that of disappearing pastries.
The girls working that morning couldn’t contain their excitement. They gathered stuffed animals and toy dinosaurs to represent ritual sacrifice and placed them in every point of a pentagram they drew with chalk on the sidewalk outside. As the momentous hour approached they played “Total Eclipse of the Heart” seven or eight times in a row so no patron could ignore the importance of the occasion. I went outside to see the two of them, now clad in human-sized donut costumes, doing an improvised dance around the edges of the pentagram.
I looked up at the sky. It was overcast but very bright. The folks at the bike shop next door had the special glasses and were taking turns craning their heads up at the sun. I borrowed a pair and gazed up as all but a sliver of the sun disappeared behind the moon. It looked like a science-fiction movie. I gave the glasses back and returned to the coffee shop.
I’m rarely moved by nature. It’s hard for me to engage with it in any meaningful way. It’s also always been difficult for me to have any fellow-feeling during group events. I tend to feel closest to other people when I’m apart from them. So it was strange to get caught up in my neighbors’ delight over the eclipse. Perhaps the fact it was one of the few news events over the past year which didn’t fill me with despair or horror helped.
Don’t worry, I still won’t be caught dead at a campsite anytime soon. But for a couple of hours last Monday, Mother Nature actually made me take notice.