The Egyptians measured the passing of time through patterns spilled across a sky. Nine years a parent, and I, too, look to constellations marking our relentless forward motion—freckles stretched across the horizon of his face, the shrinking space of rooms around him—and when meteors carve their signatures on the night, I plead slower, safely, wait.
In less than a week, the earth, moon, and sun will perfectly align, blotting out that familiar simmering orb, its absence not changing our pull to its center. We will learn new names for cold in the two minutes that remind us how lucky we are to be here at all, our own landscape turned extraterrestrial—violent pinks and bruised purples, a searing cigarette burn in the sky.
The last time a full eclipse shadowed our continent, people spoke of dolphins and whales shattering its reflection as they surfaced, livestock still and reckless in their upward, naked watching. When I think of the time I’ve let blithely slip by, unable to free from the knot of myself, the endangerment I’ve caused falling into muscle memory developed prior to motherhood, I am not as brave, even, as those cows who stare the universe head-on, ignorant to their inevitable slaughter.
As I write this from the sofa, he sits bunched at my feet, bony knees pulled to his chest to squeeze his ever-growing frame in what little room I can provide. I stop to explain about the full eclipse: that it will be the first in either of our lifetimes, that we’ll have to wear special glasses to view it. He listens, hand mindlessly on my ankle, still seeking reassurance in touch. In recent months, those moments have dwindled.
A total eclipse is visible somewhere on earth every few years, but seldom so close to home. It’s said the rays of the sun are so strong, they can start fire when collected in a lens. And so we piece safety nets of paper, hide behind pinholes, our heads stuffed in boxes, afraid of what might happen facing its power unprotected.