Yesterday North America witnessed a celestial event the likes of which many of us had never seen. Or that we just couldn’t remember.
Not because this doesn’t happen every few years, but because it doesn’t happen every few years here. And it’s never happened in North America during the age of the internet when all the details on anything you could want to know are available at the touch of a finger. Not even at the touch of a button. Just a finger!
Today we saw a solar eclipse. People from all over made their way to the path of the totality, which is a fancy way of saying where you can see the total eclipse, and made themselves at home. Some for hours, some for days. Probably some for weeks. People planned their weeks around this event. Their summers. Their year. THEIR LIVES! Folks were excited for this once in a lifetime experience. Though it’s worth mentioning that the once in a lifetime part is probably an exaggeration for most since there was a solar eclipse viewable from North America 1979 and there’ll be another in 2024. People have already started planning for that one too.
But what I’m saying here is that the excitement and mania were real. Folks were so prepared for every little detail. They were willing to be stuck in their car for hours or days. They made sandwiches, filled flasks, stocked up on water. Made charts. Researched optimal places. Made reservations. Camped and stuff.
But me? I just kind of worried that it would bring about the zombie apocalypse. Or at least the end of the world as we know it. And it felt like something I just had to deal with. Had to make a plan to see. But it was a chore. It felt rote. A celestial event is happening. We must see it because we must. Do the things you must do. I had no room for wonder or joy.
That morning Total Eclipse of the Heart was stuck in my head so I played it as I worked. We had our glasses and a vague plan to walk to the park as the totality neared. We could see the sun from the back patio and decided we would just go out and peek every once in a while and then get going when the eclipse was well under way.
And then it happened. I stepped out onto the cold concrete with my bare feet and walked to the spot with the optimal view of the bright orb hanging in the sky. I slid on my cardboard eclipse viewing glasses and I looked up into the sun. A tiny little nick of the sun was missing. Just a smidgen. A nibble from perfectly round cookie.
And my breath was gone. And my resting bitch face softened and stretched into a smile. And I maybe did a little dance on the cold concrete of the patio. And I snatched up a cushion from the nearest patio chair and placed it on the ground at the optimal viewing point. I snuggled up against my partner to feel a tiny bit of human warmth and connection in this absolutely stunning moment of a tiny little bit of the eclipse starting to show.
I called for my kid, I wiggled in place like an excited puppy about to go for a walk and I marched them out into the backyard with instruction to stand on the chair cushion. And they looked up at the sun and said “that’s cool” before taking off the eclipse shades and heading back inside.
I worked for a while, keeping one eye out the back door waiting for eclipse signs. Or apocalypse signs. Whichever.
I was excited. Anxious. It felt like Christmas morning and I was waiting to unwrap the mysterious package under the tree. We went out onto the patio a few more times. All of us, not just me the excited Christmas morning puppy of joy. And then we made our way to the park. Where I danced and squealed and jumped and snuggled and took photos of a bright orb that to my iPhone camera in no way looked like an eclipse. And it was good. And I embraced a surge of joy for the first time in a while.
Let’s face it, this year has been a rough one with all of the horrible goings on in the US. And it’s been a struggle personally as well, on many levels. But there in the park watching others gaze up into the sky or peer into their cereal boxes. Watching my two favorite people stoically participate. Inspecting the patterned shadows on the ground. And the dusk sky well before noon. There was joy.
And all fear of the sunpocalypse, armageddon, of the world ending in a giant beam of light, of zombies, or newly powered super heroes and super villains faded away to a moment of peace. Reflection. And joy.
We walked and babbled and looked up as the moon made its way out of the sun’s light. We went to our favorite coffee shop for a treat. And then we came home and I settled in to work the rest of the day. Calmer. Happier. Listening to It’s the End of the World as we Know it and I Feel Fine.
And I did…