When I think of eclipses, of any flavour, I think of Tintin. I can't help it. I think of Tintin finding the scrap of newspaper in the prison cell and yelling in joy for he believes correctly he has found a means of saving his own and his friends' lives. It's momentous. Eclipses are for me for all time momentous. And after I think of Tintin then I can get on to the business of thinking about the actual eclipse in question. Like thinking on Wednesday about the Blood Moon, such an evocative phrase, it makes me come over all intergalactic, and makes me look at the clouds and wonder. Like it's personal. Between me and the moon.
Our family was in Castlepoint for a few days staying behind the pub. As the sun set on the Wednesday there were clouds and clear patches and we just couldn't be sure. I played with fruit on the table trying to explain to myself, as I must do every eclipse, how the grapefruit and the Granny Smith and the lemon or more rightly I figured the tomato, all line up and why that means an eclipse. How the Granny Smith spins on its axis and has a shadow. How it orbits the grapefruit and is oribitted by the tomato and how you must hold all those things in your mind at once or the whole solar system will stop working.
I'd skim read the newspaper online which had said the eclipse was at 8.36 or something and then the comments which said the newspaper was wrong and it was at 9.36 and then I texted my friend Tim and he said 11.27 pm and him I trusted. None the less, not sure when the action would begin, at 9pm we put the kids in the car and drove the 10 minutes to the beach. It was cloudy but we could drive past the looming cray boats on their giant trailers on to the flat sand of the beach. It was deserted. We watched the light house and its moving beam of light and how it lit a strip of rocks in front and a strip of the distant horizon behind. I wondered if the light's movement was analogous with the motion of the planets at the time of an eclipse but I couldn't think of how. We saw a few stars. We watched the moon before it was eclipsed heroically behind a dark bank of clouds. We drove home. It was nicely dramatic but I wanted something more.
Maggie and Lex fell asleep quickly and Joe and I watched the sky and sighed at the clouds in all the wrong places. The moon wove in and out of visibility. The moon was full and the eclipse started turning it into a crescent. But we were guessing most of the time. It was blurry. Sometimes we could see tantalising shards through the binoculars of the shape of it, how it's round not flat. Solidity.
Then incredibly by 11.15 the right parts of the sky were clear and outside our little cabin we watched the eclipse take full effect. We tried waking the kids but they were flumped. Little pools of colour in the pale sheets.
It was strange because when the eclipse was at its fullest a moon shape was visible, but it wasn't quite the moon was it? A sort of effect of defracted light I guess. I imagine the way torchlight splays if you try to obscure it. I might have it wrong. The moon thing or the moon-like thing wasn't blood red but it was distinctly red. I liked it. I liked imagining the Earth's shadow. I liked imagining the line running between the moon and the sun and in between - me, holding it all together, posed like a cheesy discus player, one arm pointing in each direction.
I am sitting next to an extraordinary man. A tan briefcase and 70s hair, you know how they used to cut men's curly hair short so it looked like it was permed. It is possible the briefcase is actually from the 1970s. It is one of those briefcases that is like a small suitcase and it is not a fashionable colour. I like it a lot.
The inside of the briefcase is impeccably neat. A glasses case, an office form of some sort, a lined writing pad, pens, a faded ironed handkerchief and a newspaper. Everything has its own corner. It has far more corners than is possible. I do not really understand how everything is not falling into one corner as it would be if the briefcase was mine. Things jumbling up together and falling out making it impossible to close so I would be sort of holding the two sides together as I tried to sit down.
I see the inside of the briefcase when the man opens it and takes out his newspaper and his glasses case and he closes it and closes the clasps, lays the newspaper out on top of the briefcase, opens his glasses case and puts on his glasses. I read a story over his shoulder that I missed when I read the paper this morning. I think it is Julia Gillard saying David Cunliffe should disappear for the sake of the Party. Pfouf.
I see it again when the man's station is announced and he puts his glasses in their case and shuts the case. He closes the newspaper and folds it on the exact creases that were there. He even joggles it into position after the first fold to ensure it will collapse into itself the right way before the second fold. He opens his briefcase and puts his newspaper and glasses case away in their corners and closes the briefcase.
I think maybe it sounds like I am making fun of the man and that worries me. I'm not making fun of him. He is extraordinary to me because 40 years ago the trains would have been filled with men just like him with routines just like his. Careful undigital routines that become graceful with repitition. This man looks too young to have cultivated his routines or his hairstyle back then or to have just not noticed computers. He's too young to be a relic. Perhaps it's empathy I feel. Me, an old school feminist in the woollen Nana coats and op shop frocks I've been wearing since I was a teenager. Me with my love of usurped schools of poetry. But there's something utterly alien about the man too, something absolute and ordered.
I watch him walk on to the platform in his fawn trousers and raincoat. It's grey and raining and he peers into the sky, stops and pulls out from his pocket a sunhat that can act as a rain hat, let's call it a generic hat, and puts it on, pulls the white string around his chin and tightens it with the toggle.
(C) Copyright 2012, Mrs Loolupants, All Rights Reserved.