I was in second grade when I first learned what a solar eclipse was. After the teacher’s lesson, I remember borrowing an old, beat-up children’s science book from the library, reading that the next total eclipse in the United States would take place in 2017, and thinking to myself that somehow, someway, I would find a way to see it. As fate would have it, on Monday, August 21, 2017, as the new moon passed in front of the sun over the continental U.S., I was living in the path of totality.
What was it like, you ask?
Imagine the biggest, brightest full moon you’ve ever seen, a real harvest moon that turns the night almost as bright as day. Picture that moonlight becoming nebulous and taking on an otherworldly quality, as though it were turning to elf-light or fae-light. Now imagine shifting all that silver to the very edges of the moon, so that you’re left with a slate-grey orb surrounded by a glowing, almost shimmering corona. That’s totality.
It was like stepping into a Dali painting.
It was exactly like NASA’s most stunning eclipse photos, only better.
It was, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
In that short time when the moon passed in front of the sun, many of the steady patterns that govern our days shattered. The moon, which so often reflects the sun’s light, eclipsed it instead. The sun rose and set not once but twice in one day. And, during those two-and-a-half minutes when onlookers stood united in wonder, strangers became best friends.
Perhaps it’s naïve of me, but I hope that we can carry this memory, this metaphor, into the days ahead. I hope we can remember that we can shatter our old patterns and create beauty in their place.