Priceless Eclipsers

What started in our Scrabble newsletter as a whimsical notion had become an itinerary in motion. A few weeks ago, I floated an idea of going to see the eclipse in Niagara Falls and play Scrabble. At first, Troy was the only one to express interest. But eventually, our expedition party expanded to include Prashanth, Steve & Sophia, Yvonne & Subhas, and Kaveri. We formed a separate WhatsApp group, using the above anagrammatic title, to finalize the details. The discussion ran the gamut of considerations, from carpooling to train schedules, fares, hotspots, and of course, procuring eclipse eyewear.

Our group of 8 wordplayers took a train from Port Credit GO in Mississauga to Niagara GO Station and then a free shuttle from there to the falls area, arriving around 12:30pm. We played Scrabble on the train, which was quite empty, and we later found out that that was just a stroke of luck because the previous and later trains were heavy. En route, we started a friendly co-op game with substantially less turbulence than your average tournament.

It was very cloudy at Niagara Falls, which was a spoiler. As the crowd grew, you could feel the collective anticipation and even the dread of likely disappointment. But the mob hollered at any sign that the clouds might break to give us a little glimpse of sun. There was a spirit and the layout of the Falls area just made the people a great sight.

It was challenging to even know precisely where the sun was in the sky. I used a star chart app to relocate it every so often. This cloud cover meant that even as the eclipse went on, looking at it with the solar filter glasses was useless, and looking at it without it was unwise.

As we approached totality, our hopes were dashed as the clouds were still immense. But the looming darkness was starting to create its own show. Street lamps activated in the dimness and seagulls took to their nests.

Then, it happened: Totality. The short period to mash your controller for a Mortal Kombat finishing move. I took off my eclipse eyewear and tried to get a few pictures of the sudden nightfall with the waterfall as a backdrop.

Everyone was enjoying the phenomenon and though Niagara Falls had a longer totality duration than other places, it still felt too short. Yet I remembered God’s power.

A moment later, more oohs and aahs. I looked up… the Sun. For a moment, it broke through a tiny celestial hole punch.

I realized in an instant… that wasn’t the corona. Crescent Sun–Totality had already finished! Our beloved sun was already mastercarding again (think of the credit card and then its famous commercials). I scrambled to get my ecliptacles back on (a portmanteau of eclipse and spectacles that I’ve coined just now). They let me experience the orange waxing star in its rare visit.

That was it. My friends and I taxied to the train station where we were standing and squished for the two hours back to Mississauga. We arrived at our destination and looked out at a blue sky and a normal blaring sun and it was as if the whole episode was imaginary. “You?!” I exclaimed, as I stared back at the glowing, gloating orb.

Nevertheless, we all agreed that we had an unforgettable adventure. Though the skies played peekaboo with us for far too long, we felt satisfied. Content. Complete. We felt total.

As the sun sets on this day, and I open my fast, there’s a sense of quiet wonder. And I wonder when the time will come again that we recognize our tiny place in this infinite cosmic system. Each of us a grain of sand in the hourglass. A tick away from an end. A tock away from a new beginning. Will we be here for another round of this grand (Mortal Kombat and/or Scrabble) tournament? Only if the stars align. Either way, chalk this one up as another stellar MSC adventure!

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