My mother told me that she had the chance to talk to several of our relatives in the former Yugoslavia, Germany, and the island of Malta this morning (Chicago time). They’d all seen/experienced the total solar eclipse–their reactions?
“Terrifying,” Mama reported.
I understood such a response. On Tuesday, May 10, 1993, as I was preparing to leave my apartment to take my end-of-sophomore-year undergraduate Women’s Studies final exam at North Park University in Chicago, I experienced the eerie energies of a total solar eclipse around two in the afternoon. I decided to head out into my backyard and view the phenomenon, clutching a pair of welding glasses I’d borrowed from my father. As soon as I crossed the threshold between the back porch stairs and the door leading to the walkway in the yard, a full-throttle panic attack gripped me. I clutched at the center of my chest; the feeling of oppression was sudden and horrific. My heart rate: ridiculously elevated. And whereas earlier in the day I’d heard a full chorus of neighborhood birds singing away, the landscape–fences, phone wires, tree tops–was completely devoid of stirring wildlife. No sound whatsoever. My panic intensified; I’d broken into a clammy sweat. Now I see, my 19-year-old self thought. I can totally see why our ancient ancestors marked this astronomical phenomenon with utter dread. This is an Extinguishing, a Great Devouring. It seemed to me as though the time-space vacuum was somehow being sucked into itself, and that the very walkway I began to tread was going to crumble apart, leaving me with no choice but to tumble headlong into the Void from which all the Worlds were spun. The earth would swallow me whole. Continue reading