Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Faith and Delivery

I'm the nerd who put together an eclipse kit to take on the road.

Since viewing glasses were impossible to come by, I let the Internets show me the way. Let's face it, they were full of ways to watch the big event without searing your retinas (although you'd never know it by the leader of the free world staring un-shielded at the sun).

I'd crafted a pinhole camera from a box of baking mix. I had Saltines and slotted spoons to use against sheets of white paper.

Let's just say I was ready for my science experiment close-up.

The unpleasant traffic on I-64 sent us scurrying for Route 60 en route to Sandbridge and bigger skies to watch the show. Our alternate route turned out to be a hoot for my date who'd lived and gone to high school in Newport News and enjoyed the trip down Memory Lane.

Past Don and Dean's produce stand, which, I was informed, has been around at various locations since his youth. Past Di Maria's Seafood which had held no appeal for the non-seafood eater he once was. Past Faith & Delivery, an outreach ministry in a strip mall.

We stopped at Bandido's Taco Truck to get fish tacos and chicken burritos for lunch and the place was uncharacteristically quiet. "We were slammed busy until 1:00!" the girl inside told us. So we were ten minutes behind the eclipse crowd, it seemed.

The beach was a happening place, although probably not any more so than any gorgeous day in mid-August. There seemed to be just as many people frolicking in the surf as sitting facing the sun with special glasses on, so clearly not everyone was here to obsess over science.

We set up camp and were savoring our lunch when a woman came running over excitedly, her phone extended, telling us we had to look at something.

Frankly, I wasn't expecting it to be a photo of the eclipse and I really hadn't wanted my first sighting to be on some stranger's phone. Or anyone's phone, for that matter.

Fortunately, camped out directly between us and the Atlantic Ocean were two women with eclipse glasses and all I had to do was walk toward them with a smile to be offered the use of them. My breathless "Holy cow!" got my companion at my side in record time and we ogled the eclipse shamelessly through borrowed glasses.

"Come back when it's at its peak and use them again!" this kindly stranger insisted. Will do.

In the meantime, we pulled out the pinhole camera and began figuring out the angle to hold it to get the sharpest image. When it showed up, it was almost as startling as it had been seeing it through the glasses.

It was enough for the glasses owner to come over smiling and ask to use our equipment. My meager crafting skills were helping make friends of strangers.

Between the pinhole camera and the glasses, we watched the moon move across the sun until it stopped being a show, but we also used the beach itself to assess the changes in light and shadow.

During the eclipse, our unusually sharp shadows on the sand had a distinct halo around them. And the daylight was odd, too, not at all like what it would normally be on a sunny August day at mid-afternoon. Kind of an ghostly bluish light like one of those energy-efficient compact florescent bulbs. Eerie.

We watched as the shadows and light returned to normal before setting out on a walk on sand so hard you could ride a bike on it, which was neither of our memories from our walk along the same stretch last month.

Even better, the ocean was as ideal a temperature as could be hoped for, just cool enough to be inviting and warm enough to stay in indefinitely.

We spent a majority of the day bathing in the ocean - there's really no better way to put it - which involved alternating between lolling in the gently rolling surf and drying out in our chairs under the umbrellas with a strong southerly breeze delivering whiffs of salt-brined air.

Some chair time is absolutely necessary, else where would we have toasted the eclipse with Laurent Miguel Pere et Fils Rose and eaten handfuls of watermelon?

It was a day to rinse and repeat until we were prune-fingered and toed and cooled to our cores.

Only after 97% of the beach had emptied out did we reluctantly pack up the pinhole and retreat to the showers. Staying on once darkness settled had its appeal, but Margie and Ray's Crab Shack wasn't going to stay open all night and we had beach-sized appetites after our day outside.

The crabs I cracked were meaty and good-sized, my date's Corvina was fresh off the boat and if there was a better place to watch the night arrive, we weren't there.

And while we may have been outside the path of totality and there are no pinhole camera pictures to prove it, I can assure you that no hearts were eclipsed over the course of a satisfyingly successful scientific day.

Absent a virgin, only a box of baking mix was sacrificed to the sun and moon gods. It seemed to be enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment