When I was in 9th grade, a partial solar eclipse happened in my town. I’m sure we were warned a dozen times not to look at it, but I did because I was 15 and stupid. And just as promised, it damaged my eyeball. I had a bright spot in my eye for around 6 months after and had to wear glasses for a while. It wasn’t one of my prouder moments.
Thankfully it healed itself (because the human body is amazing) and I got to ditch the glasses. Sweet mercy.
So when I first heard about an eclipse coming again, I was pretty “Meh” about it. Burned my eyeball once. Not super interested in doing it again. I didn’t pay much attention to the whole thing and wasn’t making special efforts to see it.
The Saturday before the eclipse rolled around, mom guilt got the better of me. So I tracked down some eclipse viewing glasses (not an easy feat when you procrastinate) for my kids to watch it. Basically a drug deal in a parking lot, money quickly exchanged, glasses slipped under my shirt, quick exit from the scene with eyes on my rearview mirror.
Saturday night a friend shared a TED talk on Facebook. The title: “You owe it to yourself to experience a total solar eclipse” Pretty bold statement if you ask me. I was skeptical, but I watched it because that’s what you do at 10:30 on a Saturday night.
As the speaker started to describe what happens during a total eclipse (NOT to be mistaken as a partial eclipse) he mentioned the darkening sky, the distinct glow of the corona of the sun, and the stars you can see in the middle of the day.
Wait. It gets dark? And you can see stars?? Why hadn’t anyone mentioned this before? Or maybe they had and I certainly wasn’t listening.
Maybe this was a bigger deal than I originally thought. Maybe this was something I shouldn’t miss. I debated. Went back and forth. Read everything I could. Watched videos from previous total eclipses around the world (isn’t the Internet rad). And decided I was too close not to try (the total eclipse was happening in a town 3 1/2 hours away from me).
So I packed up my kids, put one outfit for each of them in a bag, threw a cooler full of food and a case of water in the back (because awful traffic coming home and a possible apocalypse was anticipated) and off we went.
Even up until the moment before the total eclipse happened, I was doubtful. Would it be as amazing as people made it sound? Would it really go dark? Would we really see stars in the sky in the middle of the day? How could it possible live up to what I thought it might be–What I thought it should be for the hype going on?
(Taking selfies with eclipse glasses on is wicked hard)
We went to a spot by a big open field, no trees or tall buildings around so we could see well. I was concerned with how we would know when we could take our glasses off and look at it (once it’s the total eclipse, it’s safe to look at it without the special glasses–or so people said). I just didn’t know what to expect.
The moon slowly moved. And the sun slowly disappeared, sliver by sliver by sliver. We craned our necks up to the sky. Held our glasses to our face (those three-blind-mice glasses don’t stay on so well). And then it went dark. The sun disappeared.
(Took a poor photo of the sun through solar eclipse glasses with my cell phone)
I’m not terribly dramatic nor would I say I’m easily excited or overly impressed by much.
But I’m not exaggerating when I say looking at a total solar eclipse was the.most.amazing.thing I have ever seen in my entire life. Words can’t describe. Pictures don’t do it justice. It’s not just something you SEE. It’s something you FEEL.
There was the perfect dark circle of the moon blocking the sun. Around the black circle was a defined bright light, not too bright to look at but the most beautiful light I’d ever seen. A light beyond description. The sky darkened. The stars came out. There was an orangish-red sunset on the horizon 360 degrees all around us. The street lights came on. The temperature cooled.
People yelled and cheered. Some people cried. My kids jumped up and down. I stood there in awe.
It wasn’t just what we saw. It was how it made us feel. We saw a part of the universe and cosmos we had never seen before. I felt a part of something bigger–something more important than our human selves can even comprehend.
In the realm of all that was happening, I was nothing. And yet, I was everything.
It was as if, for a moment, God peeked his head out and said “yep, I’m really here.”
David Baron was right. “You OWE it to yourself to experience a total solar eclipse.” Notice he didn’t say “see”. It’s an experience you’ll never forget and one I dare say will actually change you.
If in your lifetime there is ever a total solar eclipse that is even remotely realistic for you to get to, do whatever you have to to get there. You won’t regret it.