Eclipse in Sukhothai


I remember it started as a dazed question: can it be so late already? The colors outside were far darker than they should have been in the white colorless midafternoon blaze, the banisters on the building opposite my window were as yellow as a rich cream, and the drooping bougainvilleas were casting mauve-dyed shadows on the chipped paint. The sky was a heaving northern sea, deep and blue and rich enough for a pod of humpback whales. Then what was this…? Had I strayed inside a dream, were my eyes coated in a saharan mirage, or were they just somehow more sensitive to the light? I wandered around in a haze, still damp from a shower and scattered from another day of exploring ruins, and eventually I found myself out in the courtyard with the owner of the TR Guesthouse, who handed me a dark pane of glass, which I held up to the sky.

To my horror I discovered that a giant space monster was devouring the sun! As a baby eats a cookie, chomping crescent-shaped bites out one-by-one, so also the star-beast had gouged a terrifying portion of heat and fire and light from our life-giving deity, with its hunger still unsatiated, its saturn-sized nostrils flaring as they snorted whole solar flares, its lips sipping sunspots, rolling them around on its tongue like melting chunks of chocolate—and the baby squeals!

I never expected a solar eclipse to be like this. I had seen many lunar eclipses and was totally bored by them: the moon is embarrassed, so what? I’d thought a solar eclipse would be more dramatic: a vast shadow sweeps over the land and shakes the earth to its core, mobs scream, people throw televisions through store windows and then steal more televisions, etc. But this was a slow simple darkness, a simple deepness, a blazing dazing haze; one sits on porches in antebellum America in the same way, sipping lemonade in a creaking rocking chair, watching the sun go down.

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