Just when you think you’ve lived 33 years and seen just about all nature had to offer on God’s green earth, a solar eclipse comes crashing through your city.
Being in the path of totality meant that we heard about this phenomenon for months in advance, had a run on glasses (mostly due to Amazon’s negligence) and then a last minute glut of them (loved that people were handing them out for free just so everyone in our great city could enjoy this), school cancelled (traffic issues since the eclipse was near the time of dismissal), and reports of 300,000+ extra visitors to our already at capacity city.
It was magical.
I enjoy hype anyway. And I love when something completely stops us in the middle of a random work day and causes the whole city to look together at the sky. How often do we actually take note of the sun anyway? Not very often unless it is causing us distress by not shining enough or we feel too much heat from it. Although, one could argue it was actually the even less-appreciated moon that stole the show? Either way, nature commanded our attention for at least two minutes on this otherwise average Monday afternoon.
About two hours before the 1:27pm CST total eclipse, the moon began its descent upon the sun. It took about an hour for that effect to be visible to us. But the afternoon light began slowly growing dimmer and I could not shake the eerie feeling from it. It was as if the sun was making its last glow before setting, but the light was not as soft as a normal sunset. Add to that it was in the middle of the afternoon, typically the brightest part of the day. My internal clock did not match what my external one was saying. The incongruence made me feel dizzy.
Right around 1:00pm, we went outside to witness the totality of the eclipse in person. MG’s school had spent all of Friday explaining the science behind the phenomenon and what to expect. I was thankful that I didn’t have to personally undertake that and that Bea picked up a lot of it from hearing MG retell it over and over.
Under the careful mantle of our eclipse glasses, we gazed up at the sky, instantly awed by the orange sun, looking more like a moon in its crescent shape, about halfway covered. I didn’t know what to expect from the special glasses but they literally block out all of your vision save for extremely bright lights, which appear orange. When we had them on, we could only see one thing, the object of our affection, the sun.
We didn’t spend our entire time staring at the sun though. We did it in little bursts, the overtaking of it more noticeable and magical as a few minutes passed in between each view. And watching the light change around us was almost just as spectacular. At that point, it looked like there was an Instagram filter on us. Everyone was a little more grey and blue and the contrast was high. One neighbor, fully prepared for this moment, passed out Eclipse gum to each of us and later Moon Pies, Sunburst, and Sun Kist raisins.
What must it have been like to witness this unexpectedly? We can only imagine. Definitely some talk about the end of the world and what that might truly be like.
Ten minutes before totality and the buzz began picking up. Our neighbors streamed out of their houses and we quickly decided the best angle of viewing: one with a view of the sun AND the horizon (difficult to do in the mountains). It was fun to be with these people. Most we have met and know fairly well, some we have not yet. But after witnessing history together, we surely feel a little more bonded.
We continued to switch between our glasses and looking around us. The shadows on the ground began moving rapidly and rippling, almost like waves in the ocean. In the last few minutes, the darkness set in quickly and we oohed and ahhed and then cheered as we, together, watched the final sliver of the moon overcome the sun.
This was the moment we had all been prepped for and we ripped off our glasses and stared at the magnificence of the scene before us. There was a beautiful silver ring around the sun, glowing and flaring in both emerald green and eggplant purple. It was a sight to behold.
Though I like to document things, almost obsessively, it was something I did not have the means to adequately photograph, the light from the sun only flaring up in my camera and not letting me accurately capture. It’s rare these days that we are only left with a mental image of something we witness. But this time, that is all I have. Even the professional photographs I’ve seen of the event don’t accurately capture the beauty of what I saw. I feel a little tension about that. Afraid that I will forget, or somehow change the image in time against my will. But that is how it is today in 2017 and how it has always been for every eclipse prior.
We had this miracle in front of us for two minutes but it felt like seconds. Look up at the sky, look around you at the darkness. The middle of the afternoon. The birds suddenly cawing and diving in the sky. The streetlights flickering on. The crickets striking up their tune. The animals, what are they thinking of all of this? The girls exclaiming over every little thing. They really got it! The horizon still holding on to its milky orange glow.
I kept looking up at the moon/sun and down at the girls and then at my surroundings. I didn’t want to miss a thing. Much like every good thing, it went too fast.
We were all caught a little off guard when suddenly the sun flared orange again and the moon was already moving out of the way. It was time to put our glasses back on and watch it reverse.
For about an hour longer, the light slowly notched up but it took about that long to feel “normal” again.
August 21, 2017.
It felt nice to witness history with my family and neighbors. And I loved replaying my videos over and over as well as reading about other people’s experiences. That is something they did not have during the last total eclipse: a way to share your experience at large. I think ahead to the next one coming near us in 7 years. Our oldest daughter will double her age and our youngest will be about her age now. What else will we have then that we don’t now? I can only hope that we, as a nation, recognize the magnificence of that event then, much like we did today. For if not, surely it really will be the end of the world.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? Ps 8:3,4