So it was a week ago yesterday, that people around the country (including Canada) paused for a few minutes (or waited several hours) to experience something that many of us have never experienced before…a total solar eclipse. A solar eclipse is when the moon partially or completely blocks the sun. This recent event was further compounded as being deemed as a special event as it occurred across the entire contiguous United States and was affectionately referred to as “The Great American Eclipse”. Furthermore, this eclipse was the first of its kind in the modern era of the smartphone, having social media drive its popularity, and capturing its attention during the entire event. Thus enhancing the social experience of it for all to see.
Weeks before the eclipse, people were purchasing special glasses in order to watch it. These special glasses were sold out way in advance online and in stores. Most of the people I work with or associate with, had not yet purchased one and were trying to scramble at the last minute to get one. I did not buy one.
When I had first heard that there would be a solar eclipse I immediately thought “That’s great. I will try to take the time to watch it. But there will be no guarantees.” Although I knew it was going to happen while I was at work, I did try to plan on having my afternoon free in case I wanted to view it.
When the special day arrived, I decided that I would try to make a special viewing box (from an old cereal box). It was simple enough to make and didn’t take very long. I thought “this will be cool if it works.” However I still wasn’t entirely sold on this “eclipse thing”. Yes it was something that doesn’t happen every day but was it really going to be something I would remember and even care about.
As the time drew near when the moon would occlude the sun, I got myself prepared. I walked outside (with the rest of the staff at my office) and attempted to use my special box to see the eclipse. I remember there were several people who were impressed with my box and commented on how cool it was. I jokingly stated that I was a nerd and wanted to see if it actually worked. Most wanted to try and see if it actually did work. However one naysayer said it wouldn’t. I did offer it to her if she wanted. Living in central Florida, I knew the experience wasn’t going to be as grand as other places in the country. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. But when the time came, I positioned myself accordingly and held the box up so that the light would enter the box and show the eclipse inside. Much to my surprise, I saw the partial eclipse inside my viewing box. It worked! It actually worked! My coworkers also tried out my box. The shrieks of “oh my gosh, there it is!” were heard. It was so cool to be a part of that. Even the naysayer tried it and was impressed that it worked. She actually gave out the biggest shriek of all (so I guess she was excited to see it). It was a great experience!
Following the event, I watched several videos online of large crowds of people staring up at the sky watching it…experiencing it…amazed by it. Many had traveled to places where the viewing was supposed to be incredible. My own husband, who lives and works in Atlanta at Georgia Tech, was lucky enough to be in an area where the solar eclipse was supposed to be amazing. He said that the lawn on Georgia Tech’s campus was covered with viewers all staring skywards. He also remarked that Georgia Tech “had purchased and was offering a pair of special glasses to everyone on campus”. So everyone could observe it. As I watched these videos, it occurred to me that everyone was there to witness something remarkable. With all of the recent events going on (which we don’t need to discuss further) it was amazing to be a part of something bigger than us. There wasn’t any protesting. There wasn’t any pushing, shoving, or name-calling. It was a community of people of all backgrounds joining together to experience together, a once-in-a-lifetime event. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands of viewing areas across the country with perhaps hundreds or thousands of people there to watch something they may never get a chance to see again.
I was mindful of this incredible phenomena. I became aware that something so astounding, so breathtaking could force people to just stop and stare and be amazed. Everyone who was able to witness the eclipse, during that brief period of time, was mindful of one thing…the solar eclipse. It was as if the whole world just stopped and stared and appreciated.
So the solar eclipse was not only an amazing event to witness, but it also allowed people to be together in community and experience something without hatred and without bias. I will remember this eclipse as something that brought people together. Not apart.
The world is a remarkable place. Maybe we all need to just stop and stare, and take it all in. And remember to be mindful that we are all here to experience the wonders of the world and all it has to offer.