Amid the throngs anticipating the Aug. 21st solar eclipse as a scientific opportunity, a creative catalyst, an apocalyptic sign, or a lucrative chance to make money hosting tourists, you could be forgiven for losing sight of the communal and spiritual sides of the event.
We asked two Oregon writers we love to share stories they wrote based on the 1991 solar eclipse — an experience much beloved by umbraphiles for its intensity and duration.
Octaviano Merecias, a trilingual writer and photographer, was a kid growing up in the Oaxacan countryside in 1991. The day of the eclipse was layered with meaning: his family’s jennet was due to give birth, and as the radio unrolled a steady drumbeat of scientific and safety information, his mother and their neighbors were bustling around, trying to help the donkey through a difficult delivery.
“This episode completely changed the whole agenda of the day,” he recalled. As the birthing progressed, with dire signs unfolding, with the disorienting twilight of the eclipse above, Merecias became acutely aware of connections between himself and the gathered crowd around him.
“The family stood there, the neighbors stood,” he said, “in silence. Something died, and something was saved.”
Listen to Octaviano’s account of the 1991 Mexico eclipse in the audio player below.
Hundreds of miles away, Ivonne Saed was witnessing the eclipse in a radically different, but equally affecting setting. A successful young graphic designer, she’d gathered with friends on an apartment rooftop. The atmosphere was giddy with expectation.
“In Mexico City, it rains, basically every single day during the summer,” she explained, but, almost miraculously, conditions cleared in time on July 11. “As soon as the eclipse was over, the sky completely covered in clouds; there was a huge storm right after. I was so thankful.”
That night, she started writing a short story, bringing narrative life to the moon’s crossing over its exponentially more powerful counterpart.
Saed, who’s also a translator and photographer, as well as a lecturer at Marylhurst University, said there was no denying the spirituality of the moment.
“There is a hope that you can change things,” she said. “It’s like an interruption of time. This is supposed to let you think.”
She added, “I do feel it’s a very interesting coincidence. If it can happen to the sun and the moon and the earth, it can happen to a country or a person.”
Listen to Saed’s account of the 1991 Mexico eclipse in the audio player below.