The Eclipse

I was taking a creative writing class just after the 2017 total eclipse of the Sun. The teacher gave us a prompt to get our writing  started. For that day, the prompt was: 

“The truth that I have been shielding myself from is…”

Here is the story that emerged from the prompt: 

Sometimes there’s a numinous moment that wakes you up. It can fall like grace in the look of a dog’s eyes that breaks your heart wide open. Or a moment of innocence shared with a baby. This adventure didn’t seem like it would be one of those. 

A feeling of change was coming on for months, like a buzz under my skin singing a song of anticipation, feeling on the edge of something unknown. There were many drives into the mountains to sit beside a rapidly moving stream. I let the waterfalls come right to me and imagined them flowing through me. Getting me clean. For what?

All of my friends were talking about a feeling of shift in the air. I felt it too. They talked a lot about astrology, how the planets and stars are lining up…things I don’t pay much attention to. But, the news about the 2017 total eclipse across the whole United States was not possible to ignore. 

I had no intention of going to see the total. Partial was good enough for me. The news scared me away. The media said, there’ll be big, not big…giant, crowds. I don’t do crowds. Even a concert in the park is a tough choice. Stories of hundreds of thousands of people traveling made it a no brainer to stay home. Reports of stalled traffic, gas and water shortages, exorbitant rates to find a place to stay came constantly through the air waves. “I’m not going.” Perfectly clear, that was it! That’s what I thought. 

Then, the week before the eclipse, I listened to a TED talk. The speaker said, “You owe it to yourself to see a total eclipse before you die.”  At 76, my life was much closer to the end than to the beginning, so I took his word for it. I didn’t want to die before seeing a total. I dropped my fear and searched the web for a reasonably priced airbnb in Idaho Falls. It’s only a three hour drive from home. This is doable, I thought. I’ll drive up on Sunday so that I’m settled in for Monday’s big show. 

The drive turned out to be easy. The place I found to stay was a beautiful healing center with spacious lawns, big trees, and enough open area to see the sky. The staff was beyond lovely. The guests were few and fine. No crowds. I brought everything I needed to sustain myself for two days without needing to get back in the car.

There we sat on Monday, our row of lawn chairs spread out on the grass, lazily reclining, each with our special glasses. I looked up every so often so that I could see a bigger bite out of the sun. However, it was the scene around me that seemed more fascinating. 

I was mesmerized by the light on the ground and how it shown on people’s faces. I took my special glasses off to let the light in. A previously unknown, strange, blue-something kind of light. Somewhat eerie. I was submerged in a magical fantasy story book illustration. Then…on top of that feeling, there was the sense of the shadow of the moon. It brought chills, both emotionally and literally. The skin on my arms turned into goosebumps as the temperature quickly dropped.  

People near me were deeply involved with taking pictures on their phones. Phone energy and chattering distracted me and I wanted to be present. I figured NASA would do a much better job with photos anyway. I didn’t travel that far to have my nose in my phone. So I moved away from the group. On purpose, I stood a little apart. I wanted open space around me. 

Then Bang! There it was, the moment of Total Eclipse!! Off flew the glasses again. Everyone says that the moment of Total Eclipse is magical, but this was MY moment, my very own, one of a kind  moment. Never before was there a moment like this. My heart and mind burst open. I was right there in relationship with the Sun, Moon, and Earth all at the same time. 

In the seconds during the eclipse, I felt my heart want to cry. I don’t remember breathing. I felt myself like I was new and there were no words. It was only in the minutes and days afterward that thoughts and feelings flooded me. My relationship to the Sun changed. I’ll never be in daylight the same way again. The memory of the moon’s cool shadow stays with me. 

My perspective of the Sun and Earth’s relationship to each other changed. How these two beings hold each other in gravity and then…on top of that, they both embrace the moon. During the eclipse, it seemed like I could feel their dance. I’ve seen that written before, “the dance of the cosmos.” but this was a felt sense, not an idea in someone else’s head. It was cellular…how  we all are linked with each other….Sun, Moon, Earth and me. Perhaps all of us to each other too. But this moment was not about people for me, this was about stars, moons, and planets. I stood there, actually seeing the Sun in alignment with the Moon and both of them aligned with Earth. And  I was right in line with the three of them! 

Amazingly, I felt myself included in that alignment all the way down to my cells. Everything in me in alignment. This is the truth that I’ve shielded myself from….I am part of the immensity of the universe and I am humbled by it. The fact that I actually included myself in the celestial  alignment is a truth that I never considered. In time and space I am so tiny, yet my being on Earth is significant. My body and it’s weight is significant. I know it, not as a concept, I know because my cells know. The feeling comes back to me each time that I recall that moment. If this is true for me, I’m not the only one, it must be true for you too. 

What I hold most dear from this experience is recognizing the gift of being born on this beautiful planet. Even with my feet planted on the ground, I know that there is boundless cosmos extending everywhere. This boundlessness feels like love to me. I’m gobsmacked for bearing witness to a vastness that I cannot contain yet somehow I contain. I’ve always loved our Earth, but the magnitude of love and connection that I felt during the eclipse was previously hidden from me. I couldn’t know what I didn’t know. Experiencing the eclipse brought knowledge. It was a numinous moment after all. Gratitude beyond words.

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