I’ll admit it, I was pretty freaked out about this eclipse business. Having heard estimates ranging between two and twenty thousand visitors to my town for the event, I had parked my car, stocked up on groceries, purified water and prepared to bed down from what could only be deemed the apoc-eclipse. There were wild rumors of gas shortages, home break-ins, and sacrificial rites. Traffic, road rage, and long food lines (oh my!)
Not only was I afraid of strangers, I was afraid of the actual natural event that they sought. Annie Dillard and NPR had more than prepared me for the potential insanity I would experience when the moon blocked the sun. Dreadful tales of burned retinas and lapses in consciousness infiltrated the internet, while my own imagination produced a constant flow of pseudoscience and potential dangers.
My anxiety wasn’t just because of the sun. Leading up to the eclipse, life seemed to be moving at a million miles per hour in a million different directions. People were moving and dying and not treating each other well. Tragedies grew by the minute, as did to-do lists, confusions, and missed opportunities.
All that, and Mercury is in retrograde, so everything’s going to shit.
But then, the sun blacked out.
It momentarily pulled us from our lists, our grievances, and our computer screens to look up. We waded through traffic to stand atop mountains together, to see something so rare and so big that it would make us feel small.
Because in my 51 seconds of totality, that’s what I felt. I felt the insignificance associated with the breadth of the night sky, paired with the power of the midday sun. Rather than fear, I felt pause. Rather than screams, I heard quiet. And rather than impact, I felt relief.
During totality I couldn’t be anywhere but there, on a mountaintop, thinking about nothing but the absence of the sun and the 360 degree indigo haze that surrounded me. I imagine a few million other people felt something like that, too.
The sense of presence was short, but it was a pause nonetheless. It was equally as insignificant as it was life-changing because the moment it ended, the swirl of life began. Engines started up. Traffic lights blinked. We all went back to work.
And, likewise those tragedies, to-dos, and obligations continued to mount. Even with them, though, I’m grateful for the break. I’m grateful to have seen what calm rests in the total eclipse of the grind, and, specifically, to be reminded how important it is to seek it.
Back to work.