Eclipse Mania

On Monday, the moon will steal between the Earth and the sun, a total solar eclipse in North America. The path of totality, the strip of the continent where the moon will completely obscure the sun, begins in Mazatlán, Mexico, crosses over more than a dozen U.S. states, from Texas to Maine, and ends in Newfoundland, Canada.

For umbraphiles (“shadow lovers,” in Latin), as eclipse enthusiasts are known, this is a big deal. They’ve had hotel rooms in Buffalo and Carbondale, Ill. booked for months if not years. They’re following weather reports closely, praying for cloudless skies.

The first time I heard of an eclipse, I was in sixth grade. My science teacher, too aptly named Mr. Lux (“light,” in Latin), described the mechanics of the event, but what stayed with me, an anxious child, was not the idea of a world plunged into daytime darkness but the risk of permanent retinal damage posed by looking directly at the eclipse. I couldn’t believe I was permitted proximity to this much peril, this much responsibility over my safety. One glance skyward and I could damage my eyesight forever. Why was I just learning about this now?

I didn’t think much of eclipses again until the very branded “Great American Eclipse” of 2017, for which I procured safety glasses and witnessed a few moments of the sun mostly disappearing on a crowded street corner in Manhattan, near my office. The experience was brief, strange, uncoordinated. A quick astronomy interlude then back to work.

This time around, I’ve been considering the eclipse the way I did the coronation of Charles III: It’s not an event of organic fascination for me, but there’s enough hype and chatter afoot that I want in. I’ll read up and geek out so that I understand its significance, so that I can be a part of the pop-up community that materializes when big things are happening. That’s the blessing and the curse of endless information: If everyone’s talking about something, you can join in on the fun! Also, everyone’s always talking about something; why won’t they ever shut up.

Or, as a friend of mine put it grumpily, “Is this a disturbance in the heavens or a pure product of a grotesque news cycle where everything has to be a topic of ‘the national conversation’?”

I heard him, but given an option to quash my cynicism, I’ll always pursue it. I got on a video chat with my friends Christa and Ali, umbraphiles who are traveling from their home in Amsterdam to an Airbnb in the Adirondacks for Monday’s spectacle. In 2017 they rented a house in the path of totality in Oregon, and immediately afterward booked accommodations for this year.

What had they seen last time that made them so eager to do it again?

They described the hours leading up to the eclipse, when the weather gets colder, when you’re suddenly aware of how much the sun is heating us. In Oregon, the streetlights had come on and the birds went silent at 10 in the morning. Kids got tired and more snugly, bedtime behavior triggered.

“I’m not a spiritual person. I don’t usually think about the bigger picture of what we’re swimming in,” Ali said. “But I felt that at the eclipse. I had a sense that I’m this one person in this huge thing.” That’s the feeling she’s hoping to encounter again. Christa compared the experience to the awe felt by astronauts seeing Earth from space for the first time.

Why was I just learning about this now? Or why was I just paying attention now? It’s way too late to travel to see the main attraction, but the next best thing might be reading Annie Dillard’s incandescent account of seeing the 1979 eclipse on a hilltop in central Washington State: “There was no sound. The eyes dried, the arteries drained, the lungs hushed. There was no world.”

Most of our communal enthusiasms these days are human-made: the Oscars, the Super Bowl, the election, the new Beyoncé album. A total solar eclipse is a product of the natural world. It happens without elaborate stagecraft, without any outlay of capital. For this reason alone, it’s a rare occurrence. And there won’t be another in the United States until 2044.

I asked my friend Ali what she hoped to get out of her eclipse trip this year. She’s hoping to leave with a deep sense that we aren’t in control of everything, and that that’s OK. “Sometimes, the things that we’re not in control of are really beautiful,” she said. “It’s not just bad things.”

Film and TV

🎤 “Just for Us” (Saturday): It sounds like the setup to a joke: A nice Jewish boy walks into a meeting of white supremacists. In Alex Edelman’s HBO standup special, it’s the setup to many. This solo show, which played on Broadway last summer, is a giddy, bristly exploration of antisemitism. “People often tell me how timely the show is,” Edelman confessed recently, “but people have been telling me that since 2018.”

🎥 “Civil War” (Friday): It has become fashionable to describe America as more politically polarized than at any time since the Civil War. For the filmmaker Alex Garland, that could only mean one thing. This movie, starring Kirsten Dunst, embeds with a cadre of journalists racing toward an imperiled Washington, D.C.

Rendang is richness upon richness, built from beef simmering in chiles and lemongrass-scented coconut milk until the sauce caramelizes onto the tender meat. Make this beloved Indonesian dish today, as many do, for Lebaran (the Indonesian term for Eid al-Fitr) to mark the end of Ramadan and its period of fasting.

The hunt: Two farmers from Virginia sought a small second home in Manhattan for less than $800,00. Which did they choose? Play our game.

What you get for $3.2 million: A 19th-century farmhouse in Leeds, N.Y.; a townhouse in Savannah, Ga.; or a 1927 five-bedroom house in Salt Lake City.

Travel 101: Trying to pack light? Here’s how.

As we transition from low-and-slow braises to meals that highlight spring’s bounties, it’s natural to turn away from our ovens. But don’t forget about your toaster oven. Really good ones, like our roomy top pick or this one that doubles as an air fryer, can whip up ramp quiches, picnic-friendly roast chickens or springy cakes just as well as your wall oven can. They can also churn out toast for busy mornings, quickly reheat leftovers or sizzle fries and chicken wings to air-fryer levels of crispness. Of all the kitchen gadgets we test that promise do-it-all magic, these versatile workhorses come closest. — Marilyn Ong

South Carolina vs. Iowa, women’s N.C.A.A. championship: South Carolina is one win away from a perfect season, after the Gamecocks easily handled N.C. State, 78 to 59. This game might not be so easy, though, as they face Caitlin Clark and Iowa, who outlasted UConn last night, 71 to 69, to reach their second straight final. Clark has racked up countless records over her college career, but she hasn’t won a national title. This will be her last chance. 3 p.m. Eastern tomorrow on ABC

Here is today’s Spelling Bee. Yesterday’s pangrams were decimate, decimated, emaciated, medicate and medicated.

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