Making Retirement—the Eclipse

Restaurant worker watches the eclipse.

Should we stay home to see the eclipse, where we’d see 99.1% of the sun covered, or should we head north to the zone of totality, which was only 40 or so miles away?  We ordered glasses from Amazon, which arrived in two days—a package of five pairs. I had my eye on a special lens filter for the camera, but by the time I decided to order it, none were available at reasonable prices.

A camera lens filter made from a spare pair of solar glasses.

We had three extra pairs of glasses, and I wondered about making a filter for the camera. Why not? I cut out one solar lens from one pair, then cut a similar hole in two pieces of cardboard. Gluing the lens to one cardboard piece, then gluing the other cardboard piece over it, made a “sandwich” with the solar lens in the middle. Outside, looking up at the sun, it seemed fine.

The barrel end of the camera lens filter.

Next I made a barrel from paper board and glued the barrel to the cardboard. A final step was to glue a bunch of tissue paper around the seam where the barrel met the cardboard. That prevented light from leaking through the seam where they joined. The filter slipped nicely over the camera lens and it worked well in some test photos of the sun. I was ready to photograph the eclipse, and we were getting excited.

People from Atlanta and Houston, TX.

So was everyone else, so we decided to head north to Hillside Orchard where we sometimes pick berries. It was in the area of totality and it has a store, part-time restaurant, restrooms, parking lot, and apple orchard in which we could sit in the shade with the camera nearby in the sun. Other people also picked this place, so we had a friendly community of eclipse watchers that included dogs, kids, parents, and farm workers. We had chairs, hats, drinks, and cameras—all the essentials. There was a breeze and a cloudless sky at the start of the eclipse.

Our setup.

A family affair

Checking the technical details.

As the moon moved into the sun, there were no visible changes on the ground. Only through the glasses or the camera could you see a small piece of the sun blocked, and it gradually grew. After the moon passed the halfway point, everyone concentrated on the eclipse. About three-quarters along, I noticed the light changing, getting darker, as if a charcoal dust settled over the entire world. Everything appeared at low contrast and washed out colors—eerie.

Then it was dark. The moon totally blocked the sun and only a white glow flared around the blacked out orbs. Some dogs on nearby property howled. Darkness lasted about 2.5 minutes. As fast as it went dark it grew light, again with a charcoal dust effect. Then clouds developed and they soon blocked the sun.

Traffic heading to Atlanta.

People packed up and headed out, and we joined them.  As soon as we neared the main highway, we hit the army of cars heading south to Atlanta. We crawled along at 10 to 20 mph for what seemed an eternity, but we had some good music and no obligations in the evening. The slow progress offered a chance to wander around in some memories.

Adventures of a few years ago came to mind, when, in retirement, I rode my motorcycle across the country two or three times. Most nights I camped in a tent. There was little traffic in the West, and the Gold Wing sailed along the highways at 50 to 80 mph with the grace of a young ballet dancer. I remembered the wind, its sound and force, and I remembered feeling free and at peace. Yet I was feeling almost the same heading home after the eclipse, confined in our van and snarled in traffic.

There’s an intermittent magic to retirement that’s present when you’re doing it right, absent when you’re not. 

[The photos below form a gallery. Click on the first photo to open the gallery, then click on the arrows at the right (or left) to go forward or back. Click on the X in the upper right to exit the gallery (or hit your “esc” key on your keyboard.]