The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get use to the latter.
Special Edition: That Totality Mentality!!!
The United States experienced something amazing.
A total solar eclipse.
And my wife and I were two of many that got to see it.
What I’m going to say about it might be shared by millions of others. This is my story and feelings about witnessing something cosmic.
It was a hot day. I mean, of course it was. It was a summer day in August. It’s suppose to be hot.
And where we live in Nashville was only going to see just a few seconds shy of two minutes of totality. Instead, we drove a few miles north to Mt. Juliet to experience two minutes and thirty-four seconds.
We got to the park (The Charlie Daniels Park) about nine in the morning, two hours before the park officially started their eclipse celebration. So, we suffered. You have to understand that I HATE the heat. Give me air condition when it’s hot outside. If I had to choose between my cool air or heat in the winter, take the heater. I can bundle up in blankets.
The heat was rough. But, it could have been worse. It could have been over a hundred verses the nineties but hot is hot. We found some relief inside a gazebo and with some ice water and little battery operated fans that we brought with us. And the powers that be gave us some natural breezes that cooled our heated flesh.
Regardless, it was exciting. I kept an eye on the sky and the clouds were there but just around the horizon, not anywhere near the sun and the oncoming moon. We kept camp inside the gazebo along with a family from Pennsylvania that just happened to be in town on business.
Occasionally, Mindy or I would take lone trips into the outside world to find nourishment from a food truck or look at the business tents that were set up. Some selling wares but most were insurance places hoping a game of spin-the-wheel or tossing a bean bag into a corn hole board to win a prize would get them some future business. We skipped these.
Then the eclipse started, the moon crawling over the sun and the people there in the park, the MANY people in the park, started to get excited. As the time clicked by, it started to get darker. About twenty minutes from totality, it felt like a late autumn afternoon.
Mindy and I headed toward the car about ten minutes from zero time because we wanted to leave as soon as the sun started to peak on the other side. We figured there would be lots of traffic and getting home superseded the thought of watching the moon complete its course.
We got to the car and waited. We checked the sun with our eclipse glasses and watched as the fingernail of the sun became shorter and shorter. I looked around and it didn’t feel like an hour after noon. It felt like we were standing in a parking lot (which we were) that was lit by high intensity lighting at night.
The time was ticking by and with about a minute left, I looked at the ground and saw the beginning of the ‘snakes’, the shadow bands that crawl across the ground. After I got home, I looked up what they were. Based on the NASA websites, scientists don’t really know what they are. That’s kind of freaky and strange but wonderful at the same time.
Then…the moment was upon us.
The moon completely covered the sun. Totality had begun. Our solar glasses were no longer needed while the moon covered the sun.
And what I saw had me speechless. But the crowd that was in the park helped me find my voice. They yelled and screamed. I yelled back. I looked above me and saw the ring of light behind an nearly impossible black circle. I saw the Baily’s Beads, the craters on the moon around the outside diameter that allowed small bits of light to appear brighter. I looked around me and did a three hundred and sixty degree turn and saw the sky that surrounded me. In every direction, it looked like the sun was just under the horizon. I took a photo with my wife at that moment so we could always remember it, totality lovers.
The whole experience in that two minutes and thirty-four seconds was life changing. I wanted it to last the rest of the day.
But then the sun suddenly started to creep out the other side. And as much as I wanted it to go back to make the moment last longer, it wouldn’t no matter how much I mentally willed it. As much as I wanted it to last, there was a feeling of relief when the sun came out the other side. To sound cheesy, it felt like a new beginning, like when the morning sun appears from the edge of the ocean. ‘Here’s a new day. Do something great with it.’
We got in our car, turned on the A/C, and headed home.
I could not think of anything else. I wanted to remember how beautiful and overpowering that ring of light looked behind the ebony moon. The blackness of the moon was total.
What was weird is…I didn’t cry.
For those that know me, I’m a sensitive fellow. If something fills my heart and over flows, I tend to show it by having tears flow down my cheeks. But not this time. During the whole experience and the drive home, no tears even peeked their watery heads out of my eyes.
We got home and got settled. I turned on the TV and watched other people’s reactions to the eclipse. As I headed upstairs to wash off the dried salt from the sweat, I watched another reaction of a crowd in another part of Tennessee that sounded just like the reaction of the crowd of where we were.
And…here they finally came.
They wouldn’t come earlier because of the AWE I felt earlier. The beauty and amazement of the situation was too overwhelming. Only when I was able to step away and see other’s reactions, reactions that matched my own, did they start to fall.
I stepped into our bedroom, on the way to the shower, and closed the door just in time for the flood to start. What I had seen, what millions had seen, was on the same level as seeing your baby being born. It honestly was. It was that. It was a mid-day reminder on how small we are in the overwhelming vastness of the universe we are in.
I wiped my tears and thought about how in that swatch of time, odds are nobody was thinking about politics. Nobody was thinking about racism. Nobody was thinking about the things we had been thinking about for the past couple of months that helped make that crevasse between us expand.
We looked up and saw one thing that helped made us forget, at least for a couple of minutes, our problems. We were united. We were together.
And we were awed.
We were also each a single individual standing on the doorway of something Godlike, feeling childlike. Our first real view of it taking everything away for a few seconds, our past, our future, leaving only now.
I’m sitting here and typing this blog post just a few hours since it happened. I’ve heard that some didn’t get to see it. They either had to work or clouds got in the way to see more than the darkness that came. Then there are some that didn’t even try. They made no attempt to notice. My heart breaks for them that they didn’t get to see this once in a lifetime event for this area. I hope that the images they see on TV or social media brings at least a smile or some internal dialog about it.
I have rerun it in my mind, what I saw, what I felt, in the moment that it happened. The roar of the crowd ranks right along with the rest.
It was moving.
Maybe we’ll all learn something from it, something deep inside. Hopefully before the eclipse happens here again in five hundred years.
Let’s look up and dream it will. Let’s look inside and know it will.
August 25th, 2017
I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.