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The television mumbled in the background, and we followed along as the eclipse passed through Mazatlan, Dallas, Little Rock, and Indianapolis. When our turn came, we stood on a ridge by the river and watched the moon chip away at the sun. A lone helicopter crossed the sky. The temperature dropped. The light turned silvery and dim with crisp strange shadows. Dogs barked. Birds stopped chirping.

Darkness fell fast from the north, bringing a staggering kind of stillness. For ninety seconds the eclipse was total, generating a giddy sense of slippage, a perceptual freefall that edged toward the frightening. The television had not prepared me for this.