For the past few weeks, I’ve had a certain song running through my mind—Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 hit, Total Eclipse of the Heart. I know I’m not the only one, because I read the other day that this 34-year-old song had a huge jump in popularity as this week’s total solar eclipse captured everyone’s attention and pretty much eclipsed all other news. Which, in my opinion, was a good thing, considering the state of all the other news these days.

A total solar eclipse is a rare event, and my husband and I had been ambivalent about watching it. We went back and forth about whether to buy the special sunglasses needed to watch the eclipse safely. At one point, we decided we didn’t want to trust our eyesight to cheap sunglasses that may or may not have the proper protection they claimed to have, according to a number of news reports and cautions.

By the time we decided we did want eclipse sunglasses after all, they were no longer cheap. And every place was sold out anyway. So we decided to watch the eclipse the old-fashioned way, through a cardboard box rigged up with tinfoil and a pinhole. It worked fine, although throughout the eclipse we had to fight the urge to turn around and glance up at the sun, even just for a moment.

We weren’t in the path of totality, so it didn’t get dark as night where we live, but there was still an eerie darkening of the sky. It looked the way it does when a storm blows in suddenly, and dark clouds crowd out the sunlight. The sky is still blue, but there’s a strange, foreboding look to it. It’s hard to describe, but it’s very distinctive.

After the eclipse was finished—and for several days afterwards—we heard plenty of “eclipse stories” from other people. Some of them drove several hours in order to be in a prime viewing area, while others simply went about their business, perhaps glancing out the window every once in a while to watch the sky darken and then get light again.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the eclipse, besides the eclipse itself, was seeing how excited everyone was about it. It was a shared experience, a miracle of science and nature. It didn’t have any political or religious affiliation—nothing for anyone to fight or argue about, and nothing for which anyone on earth could lay blame or take credit. Just something for everyone to enjoy, in whatever way they wanted.

A rare event indeed.

August 25, 2017
©Betty Liedtke, 2017

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