An Eclipse foretold by a Toucan

The morning was young, still only sparsely lit by the rising sun, when a toucan settled in my guarumo tree. The toucan turned on his branch and swiveled his head far to the left to survey the canyon and hills beyond our property.

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“I like this little valley” he said, “lots of juicy fruit and lizards to feed to our nestlings.

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“But listen, abuelita,” he continued, “I have something important to tell you. Come a little closer, I can barely see you!”

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“Okey dokey, that’s much better. First of all,” he said, “I want to assure you that my mate and I won’t grab any of the iguanas, you like so much, I promise. Never mind that we can spot the bright green youngsters from a mile away.”

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“We won’t even snatch the tasty, tiny baby iguana, I saw near your kitchen yard the other day. You know, although this one was barely hatched, it already has a sharp spiny tail and that can hurt you really badly.”

Ctenosaura similis, Black spiny-tailed iguana - 4"/12cm baby, may grow to  5'/1.5m
Ctenosaura similis, Black spiny-tailed iguana – 4″/12cm baby, may grow to 5’/1.5m

“Besides, his big sister looks like Brienne, the Maid of Tarth. I wouldn’t scuffle with her!”

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“We better stick to those, small brown lizards, when they incautiously venture too far out in the open.”

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“But that isn’t all I need to tell you, Doña Claudia” he continued. “Tonight, a cosmic event will happen that might scare you mightily” he warned me, with a concerned expression in his soft, jade green eye. “The sky will fill with many layers of clouds, billowing, folding and re-folding, competing for space, while the air all around you will be luminescent like hammered copper.” I reminded him that we often enjoy colorful sunsets around here, but he insisted, it will be different tonight. “A solar eclipse will happen far to the North, over a country called Nunavut. Toucans can’t fly there, because it’s very cold and polar bears would eat us.” I had to laugh about the image of an all white landscape with just one tropical bird in it, so bright, so exotic. But then I saw a desperate bird faltering in his attempt to escape huge, white paws lunging for him. Toucans are poor flyers and there are no fruit bearing trees, in which to hide from predators in Nunavut, so much was true. But why would an eclipse in the far North scare us down here in Costa Rica? “You’ll see,” he said, “remember my warning!” and then he got ready to fly away.

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My ¡muchas gracias! came too late. All but the tips of his tail feathers had already disappeared [right edge of picture].

In the course of my day, I completely forgot about my earlier encounter with the toucan, until dusk darkened the landscape much earlier than usual. The atmosphere changed in inexplicable ways. We went outside to observe a spectacular display of eerie colors filling the sky all around us, mesmerizing and, truth be told, a little disconcerting despite my toucan friend’s warning.

We lived in Houston, Texas, when hurricane Alicia struck. I will never forget the experience of stepping outside in the street, while the eye of the hurricane passed over us. It was very, very still out there and the air was shimmery green. Yesterday I had a similar impression of weirdness, when we were breathing air glowing in undulating shades of coppery gold. The feeling of being enclosed in a large chamber of vitreous fluid was very reminiscent of that hurricane’s eye in 1983.

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Toward the South the sky appeared more pink, like rosegold in a vintage piece of jewelry.

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Within the next few minutes the original deep copper color turned rosegold all across our sky, which then gradually darkened into night soon afterwards.

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