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The Cone of Uncertainty

Your totality may not be my totality

Cindy Gabriel
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Cindy Gabriel

LIKE, ‘TOTALITY’ OKAY Catching eclipse glimpses between the clouds mesmerizes Cindy Gabriel on her back deck in Hunt, Texas. (Photo: Ellen Hart)

I know the eclipse is old news now. But I’ve been anticipating the four minutes of daytime darkness for at least six years. That’s when I first realized our little country house in Hunt, Texas would be smack dab in the middle of the so-called zone of totality for the April 8, 2024, eclipse. I pictured a mini-Woodstock of campers on my back five acres, with the quiet of nature as our only music. 

I bragged about it on these pages back in December of 2018 in an article called A Sacred Silence. I was smugly trying to get the whole world to slow down a little and pause for some quiet. I didn’t know a worldwide pandemic was around the corner. I don’t know why I think I can calculate anything. 

I fantasized that my grandson, still in his mom’s tummy would be gazing at the sky (with protective eyewear, of course), while his grateful parents would be thanking me for providing this once-in-lifetime moment to their family. Turns out the pandemic prompted Eli’s parents to move from their Houston home to Leakey, Texas, also inside the zone of totality, an hour away from Hunt. I thought the beautiful winding road between Hunt and Leakey would be jammed with cars, plus I had invested way too much time imagining my own totality experience on that Hunt deck. So I gave up my grandma fantasy of witnessing his wide-eyed wonder and decided to stay put in Hunt.  

Turns out that Eli now also has a 3-year-old brother, Faires. The boys reportedly got bored with all that looking up and went back inside to their video games. They came out when it got dark and said “wow” then went back inside to the kiddy Pads. 

Turns out our friends Michael Peck and Ellen Hart (astronomy geeks in a good way) who got engaged during the last American eclipse in 2017 – joined us in Hunt. (See Eclipsed! A Love Story, April 2024). This time, the love story was between our large tail-waggers, Zoe and Melvin. They romped and played non-stop, while Melvin’s short legged Corgi-type “brother,” Pork Chop  Larry barked like a sheriff’s deputy. (Ellen and Mike are Jewish. They say Pork Chop is Larry’s Hebrew name.) If the dogs are happy, we are happy. 

Turns out our air conditioning took the weekend off. It couldn’t be fixed until after the eclipse. But it didn’t matter at all because the weather was perfect, a bona fide Texas miracle. 

Turns out the cloud cover forecast was unfortunately right for once. But as the eclipse began, we were able to watch the clouds (with our protective eye gear, of course) for peek-a-boo moments as the moon started to take its place. It was kind of hypnotizing in that nice cloudy sky. A clear sky would have been less interesting and harder on the eyes. Shortly before the four minutes of totality, Mike's tummy started rumbling. Was it Stan’s cooking? A virus? Eclipsitis? The rest of us were fine. Mike disappeared into the house. I worried that he was going to miss the big moment. 

But that worry was eclipsed by the biggest, darkest cloud of the day perfectly poised to cover the entire sun at the very minutes of totality, a cloud eclipse of my eclipse. 

But man, we got our four minutes of darkness. Zoe, Melvin, and Pork Chop Larry lowered their bodies on the deck with heads bowed in a kind of reverence to whatever was happening. Still no Mike. 

Turns out Mike made it back in the darkness to snap the one and only picture of the actual “ring” as a momentary gap opened. It lasted for no more than three seconds. Mike said it lasted only 1.5 seconds, making his picture all the more remarkable.

The Leakey crowd had the opposite experience. They had total cloud cover until the four minutes of totality, and the heavens opened up for a good chunk of that time. 

When it was all over, the first feeling I had was relief. I was no longer a prisoner of my own expectations. 

Once we were back in Houston, we realized our Houston neighbors who stayed here got cooler eclipse shots than we did. 

Turns out the sky has the audacity to do whatever it wishes. How boring it would be if it was any other way. How many times do I need that lesson? Turns out I need to chill more and take life as it comes. 

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