For as long as I can remember I have been told: There is nothing more spectacular in the heavens to see with your naked eye from Earth than a total solar eclipse. So from the moment I knew that one would be happening within driving distance of where I lived, I knew that I would make the pilgrimage to the path of totality and see for myself if that was true or not.
The commitment to see it wasn’t that easy. Life just gets in the way – work and commitments that eat up the day-to-day some times loom larger than they need to and you feel that maybe you should put it off, ride this one out and settle for the partial eclipse. I had experienced a partial eclipse before and I knew it was a sight to behold. I could step outside Monday morning put on my solar glasses and see the moon slowly block out part of the sun then get back to work and never be the wiser. Then there were the predictions of traffic jams and overbooked hotels and camp sights. But every time I was tempted, that statement that there is nothing more spectacular in the heavens to see with your naked eye from Earth than a solar eclipse came back to remind me that I have to do this. Sometimes it was a friend who was more excited than me to see it sharing their plans other times it was a youtube video about what to expect. One time it was my wife telling me to push on despite obstacles.
So we drove the 250 miles to my mother-in-law’s house and at 3:00 Monday morning I woke up in a flash ready to journey the 40 miles north close to the center line of the path of totality in central Oregon. Our tiny band of 6 pulled into the parking lot of Linn-Benton Community College just as they opened the gates to let in the hundreds of pilgrims who had journeyed for hundreds and even a thousands of miles to be ready for this event that we were told would blow our minds.
With several hours to wait we began to mingle. There was a single father with his two kids who had come from San Francisco. Three generations of a family from Armenia who had brought an RV up from Southern California. A group of retired women who were playing cards and a family who had come from Europe to visit family specifically at this time to see the eclipse. As the moon slowly began to cover the sun, there were” ohs” and “awes”, pointing and laughter as the anticipation built for the main event still an hour or so away.
As the moon covered ninety, then ninety-five percent of the sun people began to quiet down. The temperature was noticeably colder. There was an eerie grey light everywhere. It got quiet as people settled in for the main event. By the time the sun was 99% covered it was mostly quiet. Looking up through the solar glasses you could make out the three dimensional perspective of this massive celestial object seeming to hang there in the skies like as if on a string slowly moving before your eyes. Even at 99.9% coverage, the sun was just a silver no more than the size of an eyelash but it was still blinding to the naked eye.
Suddenly it began to sparkle just a little then a little more. All around me gasps as the crowd soaked in the moment. Then in an instant, the sun was gone the sky was dark. Uncontrollable audible reactions were all around. My knees went weak as I pulled off the solar glasses and stared at the sky in awe. In that moment the eclipse had changed from one event to a different event. The moon just hung there in seemingly motionless in coving the sun so we could see the rays of the corona – the sun’s outer atmosphere – shimmering around, the only light in was seemed like a night sky in those last moments before the last bit of light disappears behind the horizon after you have watched a spectacular sunset. Then for what felt like seconds or maybe an hour but in reality was 100 seconds we held on to that moment.
I felt tiny, just a speck in this vast universe, but at the same time important, special that I had even a small part in this universe, honored that I could be here in this place at this moment to see an event that has enthralled, frightened, and fascinated humanity since we first experienced one thousand or millions of years ago. Even today with all we have achieved the scientific and technological advancements we have made, a solar eclipse is still a mystery to us it reveals things about our sun that are still a mystery to even the smartest minds on our planet.
So was it worth it? YES, this experience was everything and more that I read it would be. It’s an event that has to be experienced in person. Pictures and video don’t do it justice, not even close. If you missed and don’t believe me you will just have to take my word for it and start preparing yourself to be there the next time a solar eclipse crosses the united states in 2024.
In the days since I still smile and tear up thinking of those moments during the total solar eclipse. I get excited everytime I see or hear anyone else experience from that day. I edited a video from my experience and was compelled to write this out to add my voice to the choir of those of us who were able to experience totality on August 21, 2017. I did it to remind myself that I learned something that day. I learned that there are things in life that 99.9 percent isn’t enough. Things that I feel passionate about, ideas worth pursuing, connections worth making, things that are worth working hard for that just won’t be the same if you don’t put 100% towards. When I take a risk or pursue a project, push for change, commit to a relationship but hold just .1 percent back I may experience success but I won’t experience totality not really. Striving for something when holding something back will not bring satisfaction of know that I gave it my all win or loose I’ll know that I hedged by bets and played it safe.
How that lesson plays out in my life I don’t know. I know there are things that are important enough to me to go all in on but I still hold back just a little just in case. So as I wrap this up I hope my words portray just a little of the challenge that I found presented to me through this experience and take it to heart because our blue dot could use a few more people willing to do what it takes to go all in and change the world.
Author: Andy Yardy