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My eclipse trip story: the diamond ring effect

So Cronyboy and I went on our alma mater’s eclipse trip, which included two days of tent camping with all meals provided and various optional group events before the big one Monday morning. It also included transportation to and from our city, but we missed out on that because Cronyboy had so much shit to pack up, mostly photo gear, not so much to take pictures of the eclipse but to photograph other stuff out in the middle of nowhere. It was fine, though, because having a car gave us a little independence and a safe place to stow the gear.

Camping together was great. He had some sort of solar-powered power supply for his CPAP and other electronic devices, but we were without internet and phone for most of the weekend (we made a trip to a nearby town with wifi access so he could try to contact his brother, from whom he had received a text just before we got out of cell range saying that he was coming down from Washington to watch the eclipse at a location that it turned out was just a few miles from us). There was enough room in the two-person tent for the two of us and his CPAP to lie down, but we want to get a bigger one for future excursions. Our campsite was near a river that was just the right temperature for wading and splashing, so I did that. We didn’t go on any of the group excursions, though we did go independently to a local museum they had gone to. I did a lot of sitting around reading and going “Woo, nature!”

On Saturday night there was a lecture from an alumnus who is an astronomer, and he told us about various features of eclipses, including the “diamond ring effect” that happens just before and after totality, when there’s just a tiny pinpoint of light on one edge of the sun so it looks like, yeah, a diamond ring. And he gave us instructions about what to do: About ten minutes before totality, get together with your friends and loved ones so you can have the experience together. And if it’s your first one, don’t take pictures, just experience it...


...Which had been Cronyboy’s plan, BUT a conversation with another camper (a woma who had come from India for this!) made him decide that he WAS going to take pictures. But he was going to set it all up in advance so the two of us could experience it together.

So come Monday morning, we gather in this big meadow. People from the alumni trip, people who are staying nearby from other groups, random people, but not enough to fill the meadow. I get to the meadow at 9:12, put on my eclipse glasses and it’s like FUCK! There’s a bite out of the sun! Then I go into the meadow where the atmosphere is festive, “Here Comes the Sun” is coming out of someone’s speaker, I see some of my friends, and the sky is clear, hooray! Cronyboy arrives at 9:30 on his bike and is immediately commandeered by our alumni director to take a group photo, and that takes several minutes of arranging while the sun is gradually getting more and more shadowed. He then has to set up to take pictures of the sun, which he assures me will happen automatically so that we can experience totality together, which he wants us to do alone (relatively) and lying down. So I find us a spot and he finishes fiddling with his camera and does manage to join me in time, and we see the Baily’s beads and the diamond ring and then . . .

TOTALITY! Glasses off! Black circle in the middle of a twilight sky with wispy streams of light stretching out from behind it. Still can’t describe how it felt to look up at that.

Then the diamond ring again. I put my glasses back on and keep watching. And Cronyboy says, “Do you see the diamond ring? No, no, look down here.” WTF? So I look down and there is AN ACTUAL DIAMOND RING IN A RING BOX GUISE!


Kissing ensues. Then a little more eclipse viewing. Rinse, repeat. Then I go find people to tell while he packs up his camera gear. I had the idea that we had mutually agreed to get married at some point although at times I wasn’t sure since he kept holding off on actually showing me this ring he purportedly had, which was his grandmother’s and is very small and delicate just like I would want it. But he had been planning that moment for months, and he couldn’t hurry the moon, obviously!

We eventually did get cell service so I was able to notify my children and he could contact his brother. About halfway home we did manage to meet up with my future BIL and SIL, so they know (and have promised not to tell his parents, who live next door to them; C-boy will call them today once he’s awake). Between that meeting, traffic, and having to repack the car to fit C-boy’s folding bike in, it was nearly midnight by the time we got home, and 3 by the time I got to bed.


I didn’t have an engagement ring for my first marriage. I didn’t believe in them. But it’s kind of amazing to look down at this one.

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