Just a Hello to the Black Sun

I am rather amazing at ignoring the news. At blocking out waves of information, at not thinking about what everybody else are thinking and just focusing on my own thing.

The news of the solar eclipse have been around since ages ago, and as someone who occasionally read up about science and astronomy in particular, I picked up on it pretty early. 9 March 2016, early in the morning, only visible in Indonesia and surrounding islands. First it was the science centres, and then, slowly, the news break over to the rest of the populace. Soon enough it was everywhere. In social media, in televisions, newspapers. I heard hotels and resorts and places to stay in Belitung, Ternate, and all those cities that would be visited by the eclipse are already fully booked. I heard there were people on the streets, in cities where the eclipse would only be partial, even, selling glasses to see the sun, ready for the upcoming eclipse.

Yet somehow, despite my early interest, I just let the news passed right through.

I was out of commission the last two weeks, being sick, but then I returned to Bandung just a couple of days ago. There were still time to get ready, book a place, call some friends, and most importantly–I only just realised how important this is–buy those glasses and tools so I can see the sun when it’s eclipsed.

And yet, whoosh, went the sound of time. And suddenly the eclipse’s tomorrow and I had absolutely no plan, no tools, nothing whatsoever. It’s on a vacation day too (Hindu’s Day of Silence. What a coincidence, isn’t it? I wonder how Hindus are taking the eclipse) and way early in the morning, so I was partially pulled by the desire to just get some sleep, some extra time in bed.

No plans. No friends. My house’s facing west, so I can’t see it from my room.

I woke up in the morning and fought my way out of bed. It was early. I wasn’t sure if sleeping would be best, or if I should do, at least, something, to mark the occasion. I thought I was just going to maybe watch a live footage or something, but then, just at the time they said the eclipse is starting, I went screw it, screw it, screw it. Let’s just take a walk. Let’s just take a freaking walk.

I pulled on my jacket, wore my sandals, finished my morning hot chocolate, and headed out.

Bandung is cold in the morning. I wouldn’t say freezing; that’s a hyperbole, unless I’m unwell. But this morning it was very pleasant. No rain, no clouds, just the right amount of wind. And I live in the less urban areas of the city, so there are plenty of space to walk on and not a lot of people already out and about. It didn’t take too long until I see the sun.

Bright. Morning sun. In the middle of the day, back when I still lived in sweating sprawling Jakarta, I hated that  blazing ball of gas because it burns, it burns. But this morning it looked very pretty, up there on the blue sky, wrapped by the cool morning air. Like it was saying hello.

I hung outside for a while, had some breakfast. And the whole time I kept wanting to look at the sun, to see the progress of the moon over it, to say hello back. I had no tools, no preparation, nothing whatsoever. I kept glancing, every now and then, but I couldn’t look for more than a fraction of a second. The sun burns eyes, eclipse or not. I could almost make it out though. There was a dark circle stalking its light, right at its corner.

So the sun burns eyes, and I had to keep yelling at myself not to stare directly at it. So mostly I watched the sky, blue and vast and darkening, little by little, ever so slightly. It wasn’t anything grand, just the sky. Not as great as I would had it if I was in any way prepared for the eclipse. But it was nice, and the morning was great, and I had a pretty good walk.

Bandung only had a partial solar eclipse, so the sky never got any darker than it did on any other cloudy morning. It was over soon, too soon. And now the sun is back on full swing on the sky, shining bright, burning more eyes and skin and hearts. Done with the hellos, it’s now back to full time work.

I know the sun is, well, good. But I’ve never liked it. Never liked how bright it is, how hot it is, even how desperate we are for it when the cold is too strong. But for that moment in the morning–when I had to tell myself not to look, or glance, or stare at it–it seemed like a friend whom I’ve always passed by but have never gotten around to know.

Back at home, I watched some stream of the total eclipses (NASA TV was going live in Micronesia, which had the total eclipse later). It was pretty, prettier than my cynical ass had expected. I wished I could have done something more, maybe stayed outside longer, maybe tried some tricks to see the sun, maybe get some friends to borrow telescope.

But, hey. I was glad for what I have, proud of what little I did. It was great for how long it lasted.


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