Sunday, September 18, 2011

Memory of the Month: When the World Went Black


I love to travel. Ralph did, too, once I talked him into a trip. But in 1991 I didn't have to convince him. The minute he saw the article about the Museum of Natural Science's trip to Oaxaca, Mexico to see the upcoming solar eclipse, he was ready to sign up.

We'd been on a trip with the Museum's astronomy expert before--to Chile to see Haley's Comet--and it was great fun, watching the starry sky from the Chilean desert. Now we'd see another once-in-a-lifetime sight, a total eclipse of the sun.

Oaxaca was crowded with tourists eager for their adventure. We visited the observatory there and heard a lecture on the eclipse and the safe way to view it. Never look directly at the sun, even if it's obscured by the moon, or you're likely to be blinded, so we had special dark glasses for the viewing.

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We traveled to the impressive ruins at Monte Alban, toured the wide plaza and some of the stone buildings, then had a picnic lunch. As the time for the eclipse neared, throngs of people arrived. Nearby was a group with painted faces, drumming as they waited for the sun to disappear. My heart pounded. How had it felt, centuries ago to the Mayans and Aztecs, when suddenly the world went dark?

Gradually the light dimmed and we could see the moon moving across the sun, slowly covering it. An eerie, gray-greenish light surrounded us. We could see Jupiter, Mercury and Venus in line with the moon. A shadow passed over the valley, and the air grew cold. We stood in the dark, the drums pounding in the background, the drummers chanting in time. A minute passed, then two, then three...and the light returned.

It's a memory I'll always cherish and a special day shared with Ralph.


Angeline said... [Reply to comment]

We had a full solar eclipse in the UK when I was a teenager, and I happened to live in the part of the country it was best viewed from.

The whole town climbed up a hill and sat on the grass to watch. It was so eerie, and I'll never forget watching all the birds fly to roost as the sky went dark.

Michael Ann said... [Reply to comment]

I love that there were drummers...somehow that just adds to the magic of the story as I can put myself there with you and hear the drums. So amazing. I'm glad you have this special memory and thank you for sharing it with us!


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