Literary places – Stephen King „Dolores Claiborne” and a full solar eclipse

“I looked up at the eclipse – somethin that’s always been a lot closer to me than I ever wanted it to be. Sometimes I even hear it in my dreams, only in the dreams he gets out n comes after me again, and that ain’t what really happened.”

Stephen King “Dolores Claiborne”

It’s July 20, 1963, a time for a full solar eclipse. Dolores Claiborne has planed it to change her life, and so it did. Almost three decades latter it’s finally a time to tell the story for the first time.

Dolores Claiborne
The day of the black sun in 1963 and 2017,  in King’s novel and my travel notes (eclipse glasses attached) respectively.

In Stephen King’s novel “Dolores Claiborne” story line is built around the expectancy of a full solar eclipse and (one of the) culminations take place during the totality.  The expectation, a timing and means are all intertwined with this once in a lifetime natural phenomenon. A lives of a regular people, in the world as it was, at a time. Small lives briefly interrupted by , visible to all without discriminati

Though the Little Tall Island is (hopefully) as fictional as Dolores and her story, the full solar eclipse did take place at that date and coastal Main was included in the totality zone.

NASA photo of 2017 full Eclipse
NASA photo of 2017 full Eclipse

Totality is a name for those precious few moments when the moon is fully covering the sun and the corona is visible with a naked eye. If you have seen a partial eclipse you may think, what’s the big deal, sure it was fine but I have already seen it. A second-hand wisdom passed to me from a friend about taking time to travel to a best position to see the full eclipse. “The difference between being in the totality zone or simply on the path (even 99% range) is like a difference between your prom and your wedding.“ 

I was travelling North America and altered my plans to include the full eclipse on Aug. 21. 2017, and man was I glad that I did.

“The difference between being in the totality zone or simply on the path (even 99% range) is like a difference between your prom and your wedding.“


Hopefully you don’t have to spend your eclipse like Dolores did, though there are something to be said about sorting out an important aspects of your life.

Besides the recommendation to actually travel into a totality zone for the event, the best advice I can  give you is, put your camera away! This is not an advice from the textbook “people spend too much time on their phones”. No, this is a hard earned experience from a person who, shame to admit it, in an excitement of a moment forgot what she knew.

“The eclipse wasn’t total yet, but it was close. The sky itself was a deep royal purple, and what I saw hangin in it above the reach looking like a big black pupil wish gauzy veil of fire spread out most of the way around it. On one side there was a thing crescent of sun still left, like beads of molten gold in a blast furnace. I had no business looking at such a sight and I know it, but once I had, it seemed like I couldn’t look away.”

Dolores Claiborne

You think it’s an event of a lifetime, i sneak a quick photo. Forget it! They won’t be worth a dime, and it always takes longer then you think. 

Before you know it, you have wasted away a precious moments and the totality is over. The black sun will look grand up there, but it will be a tiny blob on your photos. Take what ever photos you want during the buildup and separation, there will be plenty of time.

Enjoying the buildup for the eclipse 2017 in Salem, Oregon. Aug. 21, 2017.
Enjoying the buildup for the eclipse 2017 in Salem, Oregon. Aug. 21, 2017.

During the few minutes of totality look around, spotting the different effects  and observe the strangeness of the world. Internet will be full of professional photos and videos for you to look later and make your friends wildly envious. This moment is for you and it’s worth observing directly. 

On a practical side, forget any cleaver escape plan for leaving the area. Roads will be packed with thousands who had the exact same idea. It took us six hours to slowly crawl  a better part of 100 km. Best option that I can think of (in retrospect) is to stay in the area for a few days afterwards for a bit of a holiday.

When preparing to travel to the totality area book your accommodation early and your flights earlier. My praise to a Salem city council for arranging a temporary camping grounds at the river banks to accommodate the eclipse tourists, transforming the center into a grand eclipse party.

Is full solar eclipse really once in a lifetime event? That depends on how much you travel. Though full eclipse, that can be observed from an easy-to-access location is hardly a common thing, with a bit of a planing you can travel to a location where next full solar eclipse will take place. 

Next totality will take place on July 2, 2019 and Dec. 14, 2020, both visible in South America.

“What I saw has stayed in my memory ever since. Weeks, sometimes whole months go by without me thinking about Joe, but hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of what I saw that afternoon when I looked up over my shoulder and into the sky.”

Dolores Claiborne

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