On August 21, 2017, I had the amazing good fortune to be just outside Simpsonville, SC, right in the path of totality for the solar eclipse that crossed the United States. This was a rare chance to see something truly amazing, and I wasn’t going to miss it. When my partner realized his parents lived in the path of totality more than a year ago, we made plans to go down. I’d requested the day off work more than a year in advance.
Leading up to the eclipse there was plenty of news coverage and lots of warnings about not looking directly at the sun without proper eye protection. Eclipse glasses were available at eye doctors, libraries, planetariums, and schools all over the country. Our family ordered them online, and they even had the date of the eclipse printed on them.
I’ve never had a chance to see an eclipse before. When I was in fourth grade there was a partial solar eclipse where I lived in Michigan. No students were allowed outside during the event. Cheap solar glasses weren’t something you could get back then. My teacher did a pin-hole camera so she could go out and look and then draw a picture on the board for us.
That paled in comparison to looking up at the sun through my special glasses (which are a pain when combined with prescription glasses, by the way). I got to watch the moon move across the sun and see the light begin to dim around me.
The best part though, was totality. For just under two minutes, we were able to take off our special glasses and stare up at our sun. The moon was a dark disc across the solar surface, but the light shown out around it, peaking through around mountains and valleys on the lunar surface. For just a couple minutes, I got to see something rare and precious that demonstrated scale and distance in the universe.
In those moments, I felt both small and insignificant, and part of something so large, so universal, that it seemed to have no boundaries at all. Many would frame this feeling within their religious experience, and there was an element of that for me, but it was also something more fundamental. I was one of thousands of people looking up at that moment and one of millions who witnessed totality that day. I was in the presence of a dozen or so others experiencing the moment with me. I was part of something in that moment.
And those two minutes were worth it.
They were worth the six hour drive down to South Carolina from my home in Raleigh, NC. They were worth the vacation time I had to take to be there. They were worth the seven-and-a-half-hour drive home that ended after midnight. They were totally and completely worth it.
So worth it, in fact, that my family and I are already thinking about the next total solar eclipse and where we might want to go so we can watch that one too. We were so lucky on Monday that the sky was mostly clear, and the clouds didn’t interfere with our viewing the eclipse during totality. People talk about a total solar eclipse as a once in a lifetime chance. And in many ways they’re right, but it doesn’t have to be. I’m aiming for at least twice in a lifetime.
Were you able to witness the eclipse on Monday? If not locally, did you watch the coverage available? What did you think?
Image within Blog: Anello_di_diamante by Walty1971
Cover Image: SolarEclipseDiamondRing by Tuanna2010