“The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)
A year ago, people all across North America gathered on a Monday to view a total solar eclipse. The path of totality passed right over middle Tennessee, where I live and work, so my fellow Nashvillians and I got a real celestial treat, along with a lot of other people in the United States. Many communities across the country held viewing parties or at the very least paused to look up (wearing appropriate eclipse glasses, of course!). It’s fun to look back a year later and remember what a beautiful, inspiring experience that was. In that spirit, here are my top 10 memories from the Great American Eclipse. I invite you to share yours as well.
- My neighbor coming through last-minute with some eclipse glasses. I had the eclipse on my calendar for almost a year, I dare say well before the hype began for most of the country. But as excited as I was, I sort of dropped the ball on preparation. By the time I thought to buy some eclipse glasses, all the nearby stores were sold out. Thankfully I have the world’s best neighbor who had several extra pairs and happily lent us some.
- An excellent, festive viewing party at The United Methodist Publishing House, where I work. My company provided food and fun music, and invited families to come share the experience of viewing the eclipse. We even took a large group photo, and coworkers came together and shared this rare moment. We have a great community at work, and it was on display that day.
- Noticing that the sun was visibly dimmer well before totality. At one point during the afternoon, I wandered under a gazebo. After being there a few minutes, I looked out and saw that it looked cloudy. I was disappointed. “I hope those clouds move away before the totality starts,” I thought. Then I realized that there were still no clouds in the sky–it was a clear day. It just looked like there was cloud cover because so much of the sun’s light was being blocked. That was a cool moment.
- Sharing the experience with family. My parents came into town and joined me at the picnic at my work. My son got to come too. It was a special moment to share this unique experience with him, even though his 3-year-old attention span quickly turned to other things. He still got to look up at the sun and see a total eclipse, something I had to wait 34 years for.
- Being immersed in a sunset. For the few minutes of totality, it looked like sunset on the whole horizon, all around. Just breathtaking.
- Nature’s evening rhythms taking over at midday. As totality approached, it looked and felt like twilight. The street lamps came on. The cicadas and other insects began chirping, and I swear I saw a firefly or two light up. It was a reminder of how much our environment affects our behaviors, whether we are animals or humans.
- Just perfect weather for viewing an eclipse. It was hot but clear over most of Nashville, and my coworkers and I had an unhindered view of the eclipse for the whole afternoon.
- The moment of totality. I will never forget the beautiful image of the sun’s corona, or the moment the last bright point of light vanished and I could take off my glasses, or the “diamond ring” just before the sun emerged from behind the moon. I snapped a picture with my phone, and I made sure my son looked up to see it. But mostly I just stood there, looking up, knowing that I only a few precious seconds to watch this and wanting to take it all in.
- The cheers when the sun disappeared. The whole experience brought all of us who were viewing it together–it was a moment my family, coworkers, and I shared with happiness and excitement. Cheering, clapping, yelling out loud just felt like the right thing to do.
- Sneaking back outside to see the last remnants of the eclipse. About an hour after the totality, when the party was over and everyone had gone home or back to work, I walked outside, put on my eclipse glasses, and looked up at the sun. There was still a bit of the moon in front of it, though I knew it would soon return to normal. Of all the great memories about the 2017 eclipse, that’s one of my favorites. I wanted to soak up every last bit of the eclipse, knowing what a rare event it was. So I looked up, indulging a private moment of observation and contemplation. I felt close to God.
August 21, 2017 was the first time I saw a total eclipse, but it won’t be the last. I have already put the next eclipse, in 2024, on my calendar. And having experienced the total eclipse last year, I know it’s worth the short drive it’ll take to put me in the path of totality.
What about you? What are your favorite memories of the Great American Eclipse?