Reflections: Staring at the sun

by awindram

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San Francisco, 20 May

At the corner of Folsom and 8th, a middle-aged man held up a sheet of dark glass and stared at the sun through it. As I passed him on the sidewalk he started talking to me. “It’s beautiful,” he said, “so beautiful.”

I assumed he was another cracked prophet in a city full of them. A request for money was going to come next, of that I was sure.

“Do you want to look at the sun through it?” he asked me, indicating his sheet of glass. I looked at him confused. “It’s welder’s glass,” he said by way of explanation.

As I was about to smile and utter a quiet “no, thank you,” he held the glass up in front of my face, and through it, like some wonderful magic trick, he showed me a partial solar eclipse – something that had completely passed me by. To the naked eye, the sun was a little larger perhaps, a little hazier maybe,  but nothing out of the ordinary, and yet through the glass I could see a dark disc at the bottom of which was a firey crescent. So I took hold of the smiling stranger’s sheet of glass and looked straight at the sun through it.

And all down Folsom street, people were stepping out of the bear bars and facing away from the sun they tried to see the eclipse with impromptu pinhole cameras they had made from cardboard sheets, some tried to use their hands to project the crescent onto the wall, and the smiling stranger was right — it was so beautiful.

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