I went up to the hill today to watch the eclipse. The hill is on top of a quarry just south of the GM Proving Grounds. It’s east of Brighton and north of Kensington Metropark. The view it offers is the most incredible in all of southern Michigan as far as I’m concerned, with the western, southern and eastern horizons laid out before you like a proverbial magic carpet. I’ve been coming here to clear my head since I was 19, and so have many other people.
I got Subway in town and drove north up Kensington Road to where it begins to slope upward. At the top of the hill I made an illegal U turn and parked on the gravel shoulder. There were already numerous other cars sharing the area. Two twentysomethings leaned on the hood of a black sedan parked in front of me.
Trucks roared by, a few of them blaring their horns, trailing lines of impatient traffic.
I sat there and waited, watching my clock mark the predicted times of the eclipse’s progress. It was already fast approaching the 70 percent peak it would reach for my region. But the sun didn’t change. The day got a little darker, but nothing like the eerie platinum twilight described in that one Atlantic article.
I’ve only seen an eclipse one other time, when I was 7. I remember Mrs Cover (pronounced COH-ver, like Grover, not cover, as in “the moon’s shadow will cover the sun”) the school librarian with a voice as warm and cozy as apple pie crust, holding a sheet of tin foil and all us little kids coming over to the window, one class at a time, to get a glimpse.
The sun looked like a diamond ring reflected in the muted, wrinkled surface of the tin foil. I remember that it did get dark, like it does right before a nasty thunderstorm. I didn’t understand the momentous occasion at the time, but I do remember how gleeful Mrs Cover looked in her mad scientist goggles as she grinned at the sky.
I sat there in my car on the Hill, the hushed, anticipatory mood making me somewhat apprehensive. Time passed and clouds came and went but nothing really happened. My young eclipse-viewing friends looked up at the sun through their glasses. A guy pulled up behind me and stepped out with a welder’s helmet on.
The peak moment came-- 2:26 PM — and everyone tilted their chins to the sky. I sat in my car and thought about the universe. I briefly tried looking at the eclipse through my phone, but it just looked like the normal sun.
Then, to my surprise, the guy in front of me walked over to my car, offering his glasses.
I nodded enthusiastically, both startled and pleased at his generosity.
“Can you see it?” I asked as I got out.
“Oh, yeah,” he said, handing the glasses over. “I got these from my girlfriend. She was just in Nashville for bachelorette party and they were just handing these out.”
I gratefully accepted the glasses and put them up to my eyes. The glasses turned everything matte black, but there, in the center, was a dime-sized spot of light. The moon’s shadow did look like a lens cap, as described in the Atlantic article that I’m too lazy to link to right now. The sun was reduced to an upside down Cheshire cat grin the color of lion’s fur. A lemon rind of molten gold.
I chatted with my new companions, including the guy in the welder’s helmet. They were all much younger than me, and didn’t remember the eclipse of 94.
We stayed and watched the moon’s shadow slip by, and then the moment was over. The guy who gave me the glasses bid us farewell and was down the Hill and out of our lives forever.
I didn’t stay much longer, and I drove down the Hill myself with that pleasant feeling you get whenever you have a nice moment with strangers.