By Dan Haag
Just like that, it was over.
The Great Eclipse of 2017 came and went like gifts under the Christmas tree: months of anxious build-up and fevered anticipation, followed by a few minutes of delirious, joyful celebration.
Like many Oregonians, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I’d been to several meetings about preparing for the potential negative impact and heard it might entail everything from food and gas shortages to power failures to wicked traffic jams.
State agencies announced they would be calling in extra personnel to set up hospital tents and the National Guard was put on alert.
There were even rumblings from our neighbors to the south in Lincoln City that their Fred Meyer branch was bringing in all employees and lodging them on-site to deal with expected crowds. Anyone not coming to work for any reason was subject to dismissal.
The weather was expected to be a factor. Many forecast models were predicting cloudy or foggy conditions which, it was feared, may lead to widespread riots, looting, etc.
Basically, any scenario you might see while watching “The Walking Dead” or preparing for an L.A. Lakers NBA championship celebration was discussed.
In North County – Manzanita, Nehalem, and Wheeler – traffic had been light during the days leading up to Monday.
Many locals I spoke with were wondering where everybody was and whether or not they’d fall on us like a ton of bricks come Monday morning.
So as the clock ticked towards zero-hour, I sat quietly on a bench in front of the Manzanita Visitors Center and fiddled nervously with my commemorative eclipse glasses.
Serious questions danced through my head: Had I prepared enough? Would this be the end of the world? Had I turned off the coffee pot before I left the house?
I had no answers to any of that, so I wandered down to the beach.
The news media had warned me that I might see all matter of disorderly behavior.
Instead, I found something I had never before seen on an Oregon beach in the middle of August: peace and quiet.
There were people, of course, probably close to 100 in the immediate vicinity of the beach ramp. They were standing, sitting, huddled together in groups. Everyone was talking in hushed tones, snapping pictures and glancing skyward.
It was more like a church service than the rugby scrum I’d been dreading.
Soon, the sky began to darken perceptibly followed by a gradual drop in temperature. Most of the conversation near me ceased or dropped to a low buzz.
Suddenly, there it was, a shadow on the sun. No, we weren’t in the path of totality, but it was beautiful nonetheless. I’m sure people much smarter and more creative than me could write a song or compose a poem to describe it, but the only word I can think of that captured that brief moment for me was ‘speechless.’
I don’t remember putting on my glasses and didn’t realize my mouth was hanging slightly open. I’d even forgotten there were people nearby until the cheering began. It was one of the most pleasant sounds I’d ever heard.
Then the lights were back on.
After so much dread and so many hours of worry, it had been like someone had pressed an invisible pause button and all of the worlds’ cares were momentarily left behind and everyone had joined in celebration.
It felt kind of sad to have to go back to normal.
I wandered back to the Visitors Center and listened to people talk about what they’d seen. Everyone was laughing and there was a feeling of rejuvenation among the viewers.
I felt sort of a peaceful buzz the rest of the day, the kind you might get from a shot of good whiskey or a really good massage.
A friend of mine dropped by and I asked her what she thought of the eclipse. She smiled ear-to-ear and gave the best eclipse closing argument I’d heard yet.
“If I’d known all it would take for me to find a parking spot and get my mail in August was to have an eclipse, I’d have ordered one months ago,” she said.