I still have “eclipse hangover,” but it’s a good hangover – no headache or upset stomach, just smiles!
Conversations this week at work and play have centered on that indescribable celestial event, which for the days leading up to the eclipse, and for a few minutes on Monday afternoon, transformed many of us. We learned a new vocabulary, and threw around words like umbra, first contact, and path of totality like we had been using them all of our lives.
We learned that in order to see the eclipse we had to have special eclipse glasses compliant with the ISO 123 12-2 safety standards – I’m still not sure what ISO stands for. We learned that millions of people took off from work, traveled long distances and spent significant money to get to the center of that 70-mile-wide swath that glided across 14 states. Tourist packages and party plans abounded and in many of the “best” places to see totality, motel and hotel rooms were sold out for weeks.
We all came together from the Oregon coast to the South Carolina beaches to experience those brief awesome moments as the temperature and the birds’ singing dropped, and day turned into night. If we were really lucky and our timing was right, we saw two of the most spectacular events of a total eclipse, Diamond Ring and Bailey’s Beads. I saw the Diamond Ring but missed Bailey’s Beads – I blinked!
For this eclipse, I was with my wife, Cissy, and dear friends at a very special quiet place. As totality approached and occurred, our animated conversations diminished. In the cool silence and darkness I heard someone say one word – “Beautiful.” I couldn’t have agreed more.
For me and probably for most, this eclipse will be one of those memories that will stay up front. I’m sure we will remember the preparations we made, the people we were with and all that happened, including, for me, the very slow return to Augusta in the bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-20. For those moments, personal cares and the cares of the world were eclipsed by the awesome gifts that God gives to us in creation.
As the eclipse progressed to totality, we were bound together in one act – we were looking up! At the moment of totality, all of a sudden millions of stars burst into view as a fitting backdrop to the magnificence of God’s creation. As the stars came out the words from the first chapter of Genesis jumped into my consciousnes, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light, and God saw that the light was good.”
Most of the time as my life’s routine goes on from day to day, I am looking down. I am thankful for things like eclipses. In order to see them, I have to look up, and in doing so, I see God in the glory of His cosmic creation, created by that most powerful force, love. When I look down again the cares and woes that commanded my attention don’t seem quite so important.
The Rev. Joe Bowden is the assisting priest at Church of the Good Shepherd.