Many moons ago—literally, I was privileged to share the Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse with family in Vermont. The media had mentioned it and people would be able to view it if there was not cloud cover in their area, but it didn’t receive the media frenzy of this solar eclipse. Looking back on August 21, 2017, it seemed as if “Everyone under the sun” was anticipating the eclipse. Media coverage was along the path of the total eclipse that was passing through the United States. Stadiums and large venues held eclipse viewings and people flocked to the total eclipse areas to share in this phenomenon. Eclipse gatherings of all sizes in all places were happening and warnings to “avoid looking directly at the sun” were posted and repeated constantly.
As I drove north on Friday, there were large flashing roadwork signs along I-75 N between Cleveland and Knoxville Tennessee that warned “Do not park along this road during the eclipse!”. Radios continued to reiterate that no one should look to the sun without proper ISO approved glasses…which at this point were nearly impossible to find. Welder’s helmets #12 and up were approved as a backup viewing device and Harbor Freight was selling out of those quickly.
America was in a frenzy and the excitement leading up to the big event was growing. Teachers didn’t want their students to miss this opportunity and glasses were donated to some schools by sponsors. Libraries even wrote grants months in advance to get a bundle of glasses to hand out free weeks before the eclipse. Websites were being updated on who had glasses left in stock, and recalls from Amazon on unapproved ISO glasses hit the news.
This event was huge and important. The eclipse was so big that people of all races, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds came together to view it. It was a moment in time (actually several minutes from start to finish) where everyone was in awe and peace was present. Why not? There were no sides to take — like a football game or boxing match. It was an event that was going to happen whether you believed it would or not. Some people were just not caught up in the hype and posted so on Facebook. Yet, I believe that they too partook in the event, there was no way around it. Even if you dismissed this eclipse, you were still affected by it. The shadows of the moon passed over them too.
My Mom hosted a little gathering of just family. Moon pies and Sun-chips were among the spread that day. She received her glasses on Friday from a last minute order and she was like a kid in the candy store. All this was coming together for her and she was going to make the best of it. Now we weren’t in the path of the total eclipse, Ohio was getting approximately 80% coverage, but just being part of something bigger was exhilarating! Sharing it with her children and grandchildren and making memories was worth the extra expedite shipping charge, and it was worth every moment to be there.
As a nature lover and naturalist, my experience was a bit different. How you ask? I observe things differently. We went outside well before the eclipse was to start and we gathered the glasses and lawn chairs. It was a “normal” day in my Mom’s backyard. The birds were singing and chirping as they were eating at the feeders, the rabbits were at the edge of the shrub line eating clover, squirrels were chattering up in the trees. Then the moon’s path began across the sun and the color of the sky dimmed making the surrounding area seem like a storm front was coming through. At that moment, the silence was deafening! Birds were no longer at the feeders, rabbits and squirrels were gone….nothing moved and there was absolutely no nature sounds. Even the breeze that rustled the leaves earlier stopped. The hush that took over was overwhelming and I was in a backyard neighborhood. I wondered what it would have been like sitting in a meadow or the woods surrounded by wildlife. Would the silence be as deafening? I mentioned it to those around me and they even noticed that the bees had left the flower beds. Erie? Strange? Amazing? The experience was all of these things.
We weren’t in a stadium with thousands of others surrounding us. We didn’t cheer as the moon darkened the path of the sun. We stood in amazement, awe and wonder at the beauty around us and above us. It was a “once in a lifetime” experience that was shared and one that will never be forgotten. Where will I be “God willing” during the next solar eclipse on April 8, 2024? In Ohio, with my family making more memories under a total eclipse. I can’t wait to see the 360 degree sunset and listen for the stillness then. Photo from NASA