I was about seven years old when I made my first travel plan. I was looking at a map of total solar eclipses from 1998 to 2019 from the book, ‘Eclipse of The Sun’, in our little ‘play-room’. I saw that the path of the 9th of March, 2016 eclipse would traverse a few Indonesian islands and seeing that it was the one closest to Malaysia, I started calculating my age and my possible state of life then. I figured that at the age of 21, I should have completed school and my seven year old brain assumed that at that age, I would have all the money and freedom in the world to bring my siblings to Indonesia so we could watch the eclipse together. And every now and then in the next fourteen years, the thought would occasionally cross my mind and I would dream about it.
I was correct about one fact. I did watch the eclipse with my brother – and the others occasionally peeping in – but we only witnessed the partial eclipse on our balcony, equipped with my shoebox camera obscura (pinhole camera) that I had made specifically for eclipse viewing. I had one hand on a laptop which was showing the live coverage from Sumatera and virtually experienced totality with the excited observer crew across the straits.
My parents watched the eclipse downstairs in the garden with our kitten friend, Tris, who was just thrilled by all the excitement we’re all expressing. As we were approaching maximum obscurity, a team of roadworkers stopped in front of our house and asked my parents if we wanted our driveway resurfaced. Noticing their curiosity (how could they not when we’re all staring up into the sky), my father told him about the eclipse. For the next few minutes, they were all climbing up onto their lorry, exclaiming with delight and tried to convince other passer-by to witness this amazing phenomenon.
Had my map also gave a list of annular solar eclipse, I might have noticed that one would be making its way through the southern-most tip of my own country on the coming 26th of December. I might have also made plans to drive to Tanjung Piai and experience the eclipse on the jetty of the Tanjung Piai Resort. But I only found out about it when I looked up the list of solar eclipses of 2019 earlier this year and I’ve long abandoned conscious dreaming as nothing but a call for possible disappointment.
The way my father explained solar eclipse to me and my sister was by bringing two balls and a flashlight into our ‘play-room’ and had one of us to hold the ‘Earth’ ball, while he held the moon between the Earth and the Sun (the flashlight). He explained to us that the eclipse happened because the sun is behind the moon for a brief amount of time. The Sun was still there, you just couldn’t see it because it was hidden. Nevertheless, it had been revered, feared and even celebrated through many events across our history.
As I grew older, I think about how intertwined are my thoughts on eclipses and dreams. To witness an eclipse was one of my most long-held serious dreams; I was in my late teens when I began to admit that it was probably out of the realms of possibilities. And as much as I insist on not wishing to dream, for fear of being robbed of the belief in a deceitful imagined future, I still have unconscious and unsolicited dreams because it’s impossible to remove the Sun by hiding it behind a moon.
I am trying hard not to place even the slightest bit of excitement in my mind for this coming eclipse but I’ll be a fool to think that no part of me still dream of somehow finding a way of getting to Tanjung Piai’s jetty to watch the eclipse with the man who taught me all about the it. I can try to cast out all the dreams in my heart in the same way I’ve contemplated destroying past pains and yearning by burning old letters and diaries but just because I’ve made it impossible to physically see something does not mean that it no longer exists -it is only hidden like the eclipsed Sun.