Total Eclipse of the Heartland

Photo Essay of a Midwestern small town during the Great American Eclipse

Photographs by Julie Grace Immink

Photo by Julie Grace Immink

The Midwest is best experienced while mingling with locals, having a few beers, and experiencing a centural phenomenon. At the Side Trek Bar in Harbine, Nebraska local families congregate to marvel at this midsummer’s daydream. This biker-friendly bar on Hwy 136 was in the direct path of totality for the 2017 total solar eclipse on August 21st. This small town, a population of 49, watched as complete darkness fell on them. The viewpoint from earth was the suns’ path being blocked by the moon. Thus, the sky became night, during the middle of the day, for about a minute or two.

The total solar eclipse was observable from a contiguous pathway that spanned America from coast to coast. Before this anomaly, a solar eclipse has not been visible across the United States since 1918. This adjoining path touched 14 states, Nebraska is in the heart of them. The remainder of the U.S. witnessed a partial eclipse. This Great American solar eclipse would be the first event of its kind where the audience had access to smartphones. However, most spectators in this Midwest town, lived through this other-worldly experience through their eclipse safety glasses, rather than through the lens of social media.

“I turned back to the sun. It was going. The sun was going, and the world was wrong. The grasses were wrong; they were platinum. Their every detail of stem, head, and blade shone lightless and artificially distinct as an art photographer’s platinum print. This color has never been seen on Earth. The hues were metallic; their finish was matte. The hillside was a 19th-century tinted photograph from which the tints had faded. All the people you see in the photograph, distinct and detailed as their faces look, are now dead. The sky was navy blue. My hands were silver. All the distant hills’ grasses were finespun metal which the wind laid down. I was watching a faded color print of a movie filmed in the Middle Ages; I was standing in it, by some mistake. I was standing in a movie of hillside grasses filmed in the Middle Ages. I missed my own century, the people I knew, and the real light of day.” Annie Dillard- Total Eclipse

Photo by Julie Grace Immink
Photo by Julie Grace Immink

“ I looked at Gary. He was in the film. Everything was lost. He was a platinum print, a dead artist’s version of life. I saw on his skull the darkness of night mixed with the colors of day. My mind was going out; my eyes were receding the way galaxies recede to the rim of space. Gary was light-years away, gesturing inside a circle of darkness, down the wrong end of a telescope. He smiled as if he saw me; the stringy crinkles around his eyes moved. The sight of him, familiar and wrong, was something I was remembering from centuries hence, from the other side of death: Yes, that is the way he used to look, when we were living. When it was our generation’s turn to be alive.” Anne Dillard- Total Eclipse

Photo by Julie Grace Immink
Photo by Julie Grace Immink

Photographer and writer exploring life on Earth. Find me kayaking the wilds of the Midwest, or talking to strangers (the stranger the better)

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