I mentioned that we'd been planning to travel into the path of totality for the 2017 Eclipse for some time. We followed this totality map from NASA to get as close as possible to the center line, where the viewing would be as long as possible - still a seemingly-paltry 2 minutes 40 seconds. So maybe in total 20 hours of planning across a couple of months (including about 4 hours the night before as we changed final plans at the hotel), plus 12 hours of driving, a day off from work and school, paying twice the $ for a hotel, waking at 6 to head to our destination (Lake Murray, more on that in a second), then sitting for about 7 hours as the South Carolina heat cranked up into the mid-90s, all for that breathless 2 1/2 minutes of complete totality. No wonder we know so few people here in NC who decided to pull THAT trigger. On paper it definitely makes no sense, and I have to admit I questioned it as we checked in to our hideously overpriced room in Florence, SC on Sunday, to prep for the second leg first thing Monday morning.
So was it worth all of it? I told my dad in an email (more on that later) that we'd have done it twice over to have that same 2 1/2 minute experience, and I'll probably go further than that when we get the chance to head to New York to repeat it in about 7 years.
And yes. It was worth it.
To marvel with the crowd of new friends as the shadows sharpened and the world darkened into a colorless sunset and the crickets began to chirp. To sit in a dome of near-complete darkness with several thousand of my fellow human beings, shouting and screaming, because we couldn't NOT shout and scream for the joy and wonder? To remove my eclipse glasses and tear the filter off my camera lens, and watch with tear-filled eyes, as a perfect circle of perfect blackness revealed the dazzling whiteness of the sun's corona, and the stars began to shine.
To see this, with my very own eyes.
I will never be the same human being again.
The Power of The Stars
One thing the stars have always had for me, is this ability to make me feel both infinitely small and infinitely important at the same time. To lay down in a field and scan across the dome of darkness at the spectacle of cloud and constellation, and then imagine those tiny lights, not as dots on a black sheet, but as giant, impossible fires in an impossibly vast infinity of space. Stretching literally back to the beginnings of time itself.
And yet, here I am, laying here on this fragile crust of earth beneath a tenuous swath of atmosphere, so absurdly tiny in comparison - but knowing that I am. I AM. And I - my own self, that I have such trouble loving sometimes, and such trouble acknowledging my own lovability sometimes - I belong to this grand universe. Belong as surely as any vast star or great sweep of galaxies, I'm a part of a grand plan, organized down to the smallest blade of grass I'm laying on. Organized by a Creator so dazzled by life and color, so loving of His children that he made it all for us. We, you and me, are the purpose of that mighty passion, so gorgeously arrayed across the night sky. The universe is infinite, yes - but its Great God, hidden from my mortal sight wherever He is hidden - knows my name, and loves my soul.
The Edge of Heaven, The Crown of God
On Monday, for the first time in my life, I got a glimpse of that Heaven. In fact, that was the word that kept ringing in my mind as something deep in me recognized it for what it was: heaven. The edge of heaven.
The word corona is Latin for crown, and (hello, word nerd), it in turn comes from the Greek word for wreath or garland. Surely this is as close as I will come in mortality to seeing the crown of God himself, and for me, it was fundamentally life-changing.
It's no wonder to me that so many people of faith have described being in the total eclipse as an intensely spiritual experience. There's no other way to describe that feeling of resonance, of reverence, of awe. Of being in the Presence of something so vast, so majestic, so powerful, that has been hidden in plain sight all along. Just thinking about the dazzling pearlescent spikes surrounding a jet black hole gives me chills. The edge of heaven. The crown of God himself.
Jared took a timelapse of the sun darkening, which I will post. Elliott took a video of the totality, in which you can hear all the people around us shouting and screaming, and he and I loudest of all. How can we keep from singing? I've also got a couple of videos of me just riffing on the experience right after, that I'll transcribe. Stay tuned.
Your Turn: Eclipse 2017
I'd love to hear where YOU were for the Great Eclipse? Did you get supremely lucky and simply stand outside as the world darkened and you saw the sun with your naked eyes? Or did you travel for the experience? Tell me about it, ok? Stories are my heart and soul, as you know.