Total Solar Eclipse

I’m nine-years-old and in the third grade. This was the year that we learned about the three states of matter: gas, liquid, solid. It is also the year of the partial solar eclipse. We head outside on Tuesday, May 10, 1994. In our hands, we have simple pinhole projectors to view the eclipse. On the sidewalk, we can just make out the eclipse through our trembling third grade excitement.

742 miles away and twenty-three years later, my colleague has picked up my excitement over the total eclipse. He’s even deeper than I am, eagerly watching videos and talking to me about the four stages of an eclipse. He grew up on just the other side of the mountains from me and I find it funny that we both landed in the same location all these years later. He sends me a video and I dawdle watching it. When I do, I cough up the $1.99 for the app they recommend. The app will ensure that I find totality and it’ll talk me through the eclipse itself. I had began planning for Monday, August 21, 2017 back in January, but now I was preparing for the big day. As it approached, my colleague flew to the western end of Tennessee. I picked up my two best friends and drove to the eastern side of Tennessee.

I’m nervous, so I cough up $50 for three tickets to Castleton Farms in Loudon, TN. Upon arrival, I pay another $10 for parking. I wanted to ensure that we had a good place to settle while we wait.

The roads were empty until half an hour before we arrived. We take turns smothering all our exposed skin in sunscreen and bug spray. Then we lug ourselves across the rolling green lawn to the bag inspection center. They’re looking for alcohol. Just as we’re signing the liability waivers regarding looking directly at the sun, my app drily countdowns to the first contact. The lady looks concern for a second until I tell her what it is. After getting our non removable-without-destroying wristbands, we eagerly tear open the eclipse glasses I had purchased. We turn and seek out the sun. Though it has been just a moment, the moon has moved fast. It’s impressive.

We wander around the dips and hollows of this wedding farm. Food trucks make up a square off to the side. As sweat runs down my back, my friends pick up lunch. We nudge into an already occupied table to wait for the order. The couple moves on leaving us with the table for the rest of our wait. Throughout the next hour or so, people periodically put on their glasses and look up. We lean back from our umbrella to watch. The moon is eating away the sun.

The Phenomenon We Witnessed
* The light dimmed and flattened. Holding your arm out, it was like viewing the world through an Instagram filter. Maybe a sepia-tinged one.
* The temperature dropped noticeably. It was about 86 degrees when we had arrived. Halfway to totality, I stopped sweating.
* About 10 minutes till totality, the insects awoke and began to talk. Cicicadias? Katydids? No idea.
* A few minutes before totality, I pulled one of the white lawn chairs out from the table to expose it to the sunshine. Yes, shadow snakes/bands were visible. As my colleague later said, they were almost more like a mirage. They appeared again immediately following totality.
* 360 sunset — very subtle, but there was a band of color wherever we could see the horizon.
* Venus and a couple stars shone brightly in the darkened sky.
* Viewing the eclipse thrown by plant shadows and within my own finger lattice. At that point, they were just little crescents.

The Dream
As totality approached, my phone beeped before reciting the current phenomenon. I eagerly dragged my friends’ attention out from under the umbrella and directed them to get ready. The darkness fell like a curtain. Swift. Sudden. Dark. Not the dark of night, but of a blue-gray dusk. I watched eagerly for the wedding ring/diamond or any other cool corona effects. It was too fast and my human eyes too weak to see. Then when the app said it was safe, I tore my glasses off and looked upwards.

Later when we drove away, my mind looped the words “black hole sun” while I tried to process the vision of the blackened sun. From my camera’s perspective, it was a bright light with a tiny black dot in the center. To my human eyes, it was the reverse: a black sun with white glowing tendrils radiating out. Playing it back in my mind, it was all so dream-like. I gaped upwards then looked around for the other highlights such as the 360 degree sunset. I held my phone in-hand, recording throughout the event. But when I think on it, I just “see” my eyes jerking up, seeing this impossible black sun, the blue-gray sky, and again, feel the goosebumps that shudder through my body. It was like every apocalyptic anime I’ve ever watched. It didn’t seem real then. And even 20 minutes later, it had already melted in my mind to a dream-like status.

The light returned as swiftly as it had left. My camera captures it from a few seconds before to a few seconds after the light returns. I’ve universally found in eclipse videos the same sound — that of cheering. People whooping, clapping, and sometimes screeching their astonishment. It’s a unique shared experience which I highly recommend. My words here do it so little justice. As I said, it’s so surreal that your mind has trouble processing what you witnessed.

We left shortly afterwards. A band was going to play on the grounds, but we had a long drive back to our lodgings. A bit later, my phone reported that the fourth contact was coming to an end. I was heading to a red light. The eclipse was completely over.

So Many Prints

I’m going on vacation next week, so I’ve been slamming through hurdles as fast as I can. So far this month I’ve designed 11 bookmarks (10 which had multiple designs per side), 3 posters, 2 banners, 2 postcards, digital signs, email designs, editing web pages, scheduling social media, and editing images left and right. Then I swung out my rubber cement and glued down two posters.

The coolest thing by far was getting to take photos of the children’s librarians. Then our local fire chief took the camera from me and told me to go hop in the photo. I’m often left out of cool photos as the photographer of things, so this was an unexpected joy.

While this graphic design stuff was happening, I was also working hard on following up on all those emails. I had some cool ideas recently, but of course, this means I have to write it up. We had our annual stats review this week too. I spent 90 minutes compiling a picture of how our social media, emails, website, and Digital Media Lab has done. The week is just half over. I’ll have to continue to hustle as fast as I can over the next two days!

Design Development Work

No images of today’s work since I tossed out most of it when I was finished with the design process. My tasks for the day were to create a print ad and a double-sided bookmark. For the ad, I created 11 layouts. The first two were digital versions of the sketches that were handed to me. From there, I worked out different arrangements of text, font sizes, colors, adding a border, adding images, until I came upon the final design which was accepted. As you scroll through the previous designs, you can see how I slowly tipped my chessboard towards it. Each idea sliding downwards until I arrived at the final image.

I printed out the proofs, marked my two favorite, scribbled a note of guidance, and left them on the requester’s desk. Later, when I returned to pick up the pieces, he had also chosen my favorite one. While checking and re-checking the layout back in InDesign, I got frustrated with the tools. I nabbed the metal ruler from my colleague’s desk and held it up to my iMac’s surface. Then I slowed nudged the text box into place.

For the bookmark, I had looked at the theme idea last week in some confusion. I poked around on the web and found a bunch of photos for a moodboard of sorts and uploaded it the shared drive. On Friday, my colleague wrote back that I was close, but not quite right. I took her words, spent 2 minutes googling and found a lovely stock illustration. She loved it.

Today I started the work of creating a bookmark from that image. I’ll admit, these bookmarks aren’t quite the thing of dreams. I’m a little crunched for time, so it’s more important to get them done than perfect. For this project thought, I made a dozen or so layouts with different words and color choices. Sent it over. After lunch I had my response back. I then laid out 4 or so designs for the back and sent it back. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get the sign-off so I can mark it as done.

We’re pushing a deadline of Friday here for these ten bookmarks. I’ve gotten works-in-progress drafts for six of them now. Once staff sign off on them, I can move them to the finish pile. The goal is to have all of them back from the print shop by September 1st for National Library Card Sign Up Month.