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Darkness will fall but don’t sweat it

Buzz is starting to build mightily regarding the solar eclipse here Aug. 21, and a lot of preparations are underway.

Sylva will have a full weekend of events starting on Friday the 18th and culminating with the eclipse totality at 2:35 p.m. on Monday the 21st. As Monday the 21st also marks the opening of school at Western Carolina University, that site will be host to plenty of events as well. Much more to come on these pages as summer unwinds.

This is a big deal, the first total solar eclipse over the continental United States in 38 years (and that one just grazed a few states in the Northwest).

It should be a grand and memorable event.

A somewhat refreshing angle to the eclipse is that it’s been completely devoid, to date, of the sort of panic human beings have been so good at of late regarding such momentous events.

I’m still ticked off about how Y2K intruded as the calendar turned over both a new century and new millennium as we saw 1999 wind down. Instead of enjoying being alive at a time we could see such a historic milestone, most of us were instead worried about our computers locking up, our planes crashing, our electricity going out and our food supply chains locking up, sending us all right back to the stone age.

Now I’ll admit I did a bit of prepper stuff myself. Back before Thanksgiving I purchased two cans of Spam in an attempt to begin hoarding in advance of the apocalypse. The flaw in my plan was that I forgot I like Spam, and I wound up eating both cans well before Christmas, but you couldn’t say I didn’t try.

We’re good at falling for panics. Back in 1806 a chicken had people in England convinced judgment day was coming. Dubbed the Prophet Hen of Leeds, the bird was apparently laying eggs with the words “Christ is coming’’ written on them. The chicken built up quite a following before someone figured out the whole thing was a hoax. How? Well, this a family newspaper and the process was pretty icky so I’m not going to go into it. Look it up yourself.

In recent memory we’ve had scares over things like the Mayan calendar. Last year we had creepy clowns in the woods. Remember them? Where’d they go? Did they all get elected to Congress or what?

I go down this path because eclipses were the source of a great deal of superstition in the past, and given the fear peddlers out there today, could be the source of a lot of nonsense in the here and now.

What will happen? Well, it will get dark – totality is expected for 1 minute 45 seconds in Sylva, 1 minute 50 in Dillsboro, 1:55 in Cullowhee and 2:23 in Cashiers.

How should you prepare? On my part, I’ve taken to leaning back in my chair at the Herald and closing my eyes, longer even than 1 minute and 50 seconds. At times I’ve gone an hour or two. My co-workers suspect I’m sleeping but I assure them it’s just simple planning ahead. When they point out two hours is a bit much, I tell them it’s in case the moon gets stuck.

As to the snoring, well, I had to lie about that.

(Heh, I’m new here and they’re young, so I figure I may as well run with it while I can).

Come Aug. 21, the temperature will dip a good bit, street lights will pop on and some wildlife will probably be confused as all get-out.

And that’s it. You will have witnessed an historic event to carry in your memory for years.

Enjoy it.

Jim Buchanan

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