Not many people know this, because it hardly got any media attention at all, but on Monday, the moon passed between the earth and sun, causing what we semi-professional astronomers call a “solar eclipse.”

There was virtually no hype for this event, which likely caused common laypeople like yourselves to miss it entirely. Fear not, though. As one who used to own a Tasco telescope that cost tens of dollars, I’m more than qualified to describe the eclipse so that you don’t have to do anything stupid like go to YouTube and watch it for yourself.

Like all great scientists/journalists/deer tick enthusiasts, I completely disregarded easy ways to watch the eclipse in favor of more difficult – and therefore more scientific – methods.

Let’s face it: only novices and Communists watch such marvels of nature from the comfort of their own backyards. Real men hike deep into the woods with cardboard boxes and instructions printed from the Yahoo Science page. That’s how Magellan did it, I’m pretty sure, and if it’s good enough for Ferdinand (“Ferd Dawg” to his friends) it’s good enough for me.

I chose the woods of Pownal as my viewing spot for reasons that are far too technical for the likes of you to understand. Pownal is closer to the moon than Lewiston, for one thing, and it also has more hornets per square inch than any town in North America, which made the journey more dangerous, and thus more scientifically sound.

The cardboard box viewer, on the other hand, was a last-minute choice; one made after a reasoned discussion with my wife, who tends to serve as quality control during my many important scientific experiments.


ME: “So, I can look right at the eclipse if I’m wearing sunglasses, right?”

QUALITY CONTROL: “No, you must not look at the eclipse. It will damage your eyes.”

ME: “Surely I can take furtive glances at it, though. How is the sun going to damage my eyes if I’m being furtive?”

QUALITY CONTROL: “No looking at the eclipse, furtively or otherwise.”

ME: “Would it be safer if I looked through binoculars?”

That’s when the cardboard box came out.


From what I understand (if I’m getting too technical for you, please speak up), the cardboard box viewer works like this: the sun shines into the box, condensed through a little hole, and creates an exotic dot of light, which you know is the sun and moon in a delicate dance because it says so on the Yahoo Science page.

While throngs of people across the the country gathered with fancy eyewear in organized celebrations of this rare celestial event, I was standing in the middle of a hornet-plagued field in Pownal staring into a cardboard box.

For roughly two-and-a-half hours, I watched the tiny yellow dot inside the box transform itself into a tiny yellow dot with maybe a small sliver bitten out of its northeast edge. Maybe. The change to that wee image of the sun was so slight, it was almost imperceptible. In fact, the one time I thought I was starting to see some real eclipse action in there, it turned out to be just one of my admittedly luscious eyelashes causing the effect.

My eclipse viewing was so underwhelming, there were moments where I truly believed (because of the shameful lack of buzz about this event in the media) that I must have gotten the date wrong. Or that my box was broken. Or that the moon was broken.

Midway through the alleged event, I pulled my head out of that ratty shoe box just long enough to visit some of the well-known hot spots in Pownal and the greater Durham area. Namely, the Durham Get and Go on Route 136 and another store a couple miles away with a name I forget but which is very similar to Get and Go.

There I expected to find hordes of people standing in parking lots and gazing at the heavens in retina-frying awe. What I found instead were people pumping gas. People drinking coffee and reading newspapers. People who had absolutely no interest in my fancy cardboard eclipse viewer with its strategically (and scientifically) placed holes. In fact, the one guy I invited to peer inside my box looked at me like I’d said something outlandish.

In my small patch of the world on Monday, underwhelmed was the theme of the day, and it made me wonder: is this the brand of frustration Nicolaus Copernicus (“N.C. Hammer” to his friends) felt when nobody cared about his historic discovery that looking through the small end of the telescope worked way better than looking through the big end?

I will forever remember the date Aug. 21, 2017, as the day I learned how to tape tinfoil to an Adidas shoe box and then poke holes in it. And while, yes, it was disappointing that the eclipse in the world of my box didn’t turn out to be more profound, at least I can take solace in the fact that I alone suffered this letdown.

I just thank God that nobody on Twitter or Facebook was preoccupied with this event. That would have been utterly heartbreaking.

The stupid 2017 eclipse as seen through a stupid hole in a stupid box.

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