Prep Your Genres — and Emotions — for the Solar Eclipse

Resignation might be the best preparation

Map of the path of the solar eclipse, Wikimedia Commons

Next Monday, a 70-mile swath of North America will be plunged into darkness as the world comes to an end. Or maybe we’ll just experience a solar eclipse. To-may-toh, to-mah-to

The media are filled with stories about what to expect and how to prepare, including dire warnings of blindness and permanent eye damage from looking at the sun with the wrong glasses. I was one of many who received last week an email from Amazon notifying me that the expensive, ISO CE certified solar eclipse glasses I’d bought a month ago are no good and will kill me if I don’t throw them away immediately.

Well, okay, Amazon warned — quite rightly — that the glasses were not sufficiently protective and should not be used at all during the eclipse. And Amazon acted — quite rightly — to post an immediate credit to my Amazon account rather than risk a lawsuit when the certified glasses I bought from their site rendered me blind.

“Damage your eyes,” “permanent harm,” “not much doctors can do.” Some pretty dire warnings this week, and you’d have to be blind already not to have seen the warnings — and even then you’d have heard them.

Blindness or any kind of permanent eye damage is no joking matter. Get your glasses, even if you’re outside the swath and plan only to glance up to see what’s happening in your neck of the woods. Wear ISO certified glasses (printed on the inside of the ear piece) approved on the non-fake-news list of approved manufacturers. We got four replacements yesterday from Kroger’s Dillon’s grocery store for the price of one of our fancy ones.

With that, I’ve already prepped you with four of the genres required for adequate preparation for the solar eclipse:

  • Certification credentials
  • Lists of approved manufacturers
  • Warnings
  • Media story about the coming eclipse (this one you’re reading, of course)

What else do you need to be properly prepared? A map. Specifically at least three maps:

  • a map of the path of totality
  • a highway map to get you from where you are to the path of totality
  • a map of all the back roads to get off on when the highways come to a standstill from too many cars trying to get to the narrow path of totality

Alternative genres to the highway and back road maps could be

  • airline tickets (to the path of totality)
  • hotel reservations (or motels, B&Bs, AirBnBs, campgrounds, or friends’ couches — but you’ll need a reservation either way cuz they have all been sold out for months)
  • resignation about the whole thing

I don’t know — is resignation a genre? I think so. Resignation is a reasonable response to the situation. Just as silence can be rhetorical, lack of action can be a genre. And different people could respond with inaction in different ways, depending on their circumstances:

  • resignation — I tried but couldn’t make it happen OR I’ve done my best to get there and what will be will be
  • acceptance — Too bad. I’m far out of the totality and it’s not worth it to me to get on a plane, bus, train, or automobile to get to it. Maybe I can watch NASA’s live stream
  • indifference — who cares? If it’s a big deal to you, have at it
  • half-heartedness — I’m near enough the totality to see 99.3% and I’m not going to worry about the dramatic difference the astronomy buffs (and astronomers) keep raving about
  • denial — what’s the big deal? So it’ll go dark. Big whoop. Happens every night.

I’m fully into a different response — passion and excitement about the whole thing — but I’m working my way toward resignation, part two. I’ve done my best, I have a plan, and it might or might not work out. I’ve prepared with my replacement solar eclipse glasses. I’ve mapped my spot, have a route to it, and lucked into a local guide for the back roads. I’m working weekends to be able to take the Monday off work.

Oops, another genre I forgot to include

  • excuses for absences from work or school

And one more. One critical, essential, absolutely not to be ignored genre that will make all the difference in whether our experience is fantastic or a major disappointment —

  • weather forecasts!

Unfortunately, that last genre isn’t one we can control. No swapping in a cloudy day for ISO certified clear skies. Maps can help only if you can fly to parts of the country with less cloud cover this time of year, and even then . . . look at the heat wave in the Northwest this past week and the unseasonably beautifully cool weather in Lawrence, Kansas.

Maybe the most helpful genres in the end will be the warnings — be sure to have proper glasses! Be aware the weather might not cooperate!

Then we might all need resignation. Either the weather will cooperate or it won’t.

If it does, and if we’ve planned our route and made our reservations, and if we’ve gotten the right glasses, then maybe other genres will be there

  • gasps
  • awe-struck silences
  • un-articulated amazement

Here’s one last genre for us all — good wishes:

Originally published at If you like a post on Medium, please let me know by clicking on the hands (clapping) on this page. Or subscribe to my newsletter at

Writer, teacher, researcher, PhD, optimist. I explore language & everyday genres to help people see & choose the language & genres they use.