Edge Effects looked forward to the 'Great American Eclipse' with a collection of mini-essays from its editorial team (15/8/17): "You have no shortage of places to turn for rundowns of the eclipse’s chronology and geography, for primers on eyewear and camera tips, for descriptors of what to expect from birds and squirrels and spiders. But what can you expect from people?" Here are short extracts from five of them ...
"Solar eclipses like the ones on Earth must be rare across the universe. How many planets have their star blocked by a moon that just happens to appear to be the same size as that star? And of those, how many have intelligent life that can appreciate it? With such long odds, one might be inclined to think himself special should the maximum point of eclipse fall over his hometown—especially if he’s 12."
"We gathered on the rooftop garden of our house and from there, as the sky started to darken, we could watch birds hurry back to their shelter and listen to dogs howl. We heard conch shells, blown by our neighbors to protect their homes from bad omens—a practice rooted in the Hindu tradition that holds the demon Rahu swallows the sun to cause eclipses. The sounding of these shell trumpets scored anxious minutes for domestic life: some forbid cooking until the sunshine returns; some believe pregnant women must not pee. Though the sun and moon begged attention to the cosmos, what I remember most is what happened within our homes."
"So, on Monday, the children of the Enlightenment will step out to take in the visceral pleasures of what is, thanks to uncontested science, widely considered a predictable, unthreatening display. And yet, the event is not merely one of orbital mechanics, but of human actions, too, and thus stubbornly unpredictable. So forests may burn, snakes may attack, people may go blind. Stay safe out there."
"As alternate forms of meaning-making, astronomy and meteorology offer a different vision of the solar eclipse. Here, the occlusion of the sun is a surprisingly banal matter—indeed, it is one of Earth’s few natural phenomena which remain unthreatened by global climate change. In the era of record-breaking heat waves and collapsing ice shelves, perhaps it is time to rethink the cosmological significance of this cosmic event. What kind of meaning-making—across political, social, and physical distances—do we need in order to recognize the real signs of a climactic apocalypse? And how can we galvanize our fellow eclipse-lovers to participate in the kind of dramatic, impactful action necessary on a rapidly heating planet?"
"The title of our post today riffs on a Wallace Stevens’s poem 'Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,' in which the speaker can never really see the bird in question. One looks at a blackbird through a fragmented filter of experience and sensation, hears its whistle, senses the shadow of its wings, perhaps reads it as an omen. But like an eclipse, one cannot see it directly. Although the poem is often read as an anthropocentric meditation on human experience, I’ve always read Stevens’ deep respect for how entwined we humans and our meaning making are with the more-than-human worlds. The blackbird, the speaker tells us, “is involved / In what I know.”