I couldn’t believe that all the hype that preceded the Total Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017, was actually justified. I mean, how exciting could it be? People traveling half way round the world to see a 2 minute and 37 second phenomenon in Clarksville, Tennessee… really? Hotels being sold out; roads being jammed with traffic; our town maybe running out of commodities, cell phones getting jammed. All of these things were tossed around as possibilities! AAAAGH! Could this be true? I mean, how could life continue if we couldn’t have our phones?
Beachaven was going to be directly in the” Path of Totality.” So, we said, “okay let’s plan a party, a celebration.” We made a special wine, called “Blackout Blackberry,” we got t-shirts and special eclipse viewing glasses (like everyone else did; then they told us the glasses were maybe no good and we would all go blind if we used them, so we scrambled to get more!). We hired a band, we paired up with a local radio station who set up tents for tail gating while viewing, we had food trucks lined up. Our local tourism folks had 6 out -of -state tour buses coming. We did it up right! We were not going to miss this opportunity!
It was beyond hot on the BIG day: the sun was blazing, not a cloud in the sky! How lucky is that! All winery staff was on hand, decked out in their special staff shirts, and stationed to work at the tasting bar or selling bottles of wine to the masses! And, sure enough, they came, about 2000 people in all. Excitement was in the air!
About noon, the eclipse began. A small portion of the sun went behind the moon. Everyone had their glasses on and watched as the sun began to go away, and the band played on! There was talking, laughter, FUN. Slowly, we all began to notice the daylight changing, growing dimmer, and turning a strange, dusk-like color, and the band played on. (So did the DJ from the radio station!) At 1:15 we closed the winery doors so that the staff could be outside for “Totality” and told the band to take a break until the eclipse was over. (My apologies, not really, to the woman who wanted us to reopen so her toddler could go to the bathroom inside. Porta-potties were available, but she did not want to use those facilities. I don’t know what she did!)
The sky grew darker, there was a 360 degree “sunset” that never actually set, the interstate was DESERTED, and everyone was quiet... except for that DJ who just kept on jabbering. Finally, someone in the crowd yelled, “Shut the hell up!” He did. At 1:28, all of a sudden, the moon slid totally in front of the sun, and it was absolutely, extraordinarily amazing! All was perfectly still for 2 minutes and 37 seconds. The sun’s corona shone like a fireball circle, easing into the “diamond ring,” the birds flew into the vines to go to bed, the crickets came out, and everyone said “WOOOOAH!!!!!” in unison as we took as many pictures, both mental and with cameras, as we could.
All too soon, it was over: the birds woke up, seeming confused, the crickets went back to sleep, traffic picked up on the interstate, and life began to return to normal. Conversations abounded about what had just taken place, what we had all seen together. It was an experience that was all our own. Those of us who shared that experience of the total solar eclipse at Beachaven Winery will never be the same kind of normal again. We had seen nature in her most extreme glory and we were awed.
No, we didn’t lose cell phones or run out of food or even have a traffic jam. Thankfully! But what a sight we saw. We were members of an exclusive club… the Beachaven Ultimate Eclipse Experience Club. Now I know, a total solar eclipse is totally worth the hype and taking the trip half way round the world to see.
– Louisa Cooke