PROFOUND. OTHERWORLDLY. AWESOME. HUMBLING. CRAZY. WHOA.
There’s no way I could get through this week without writing about the Total Eclipse of the Sun 2017. We here in Michigan only got a tiny taste of it, and yet all who viewed it felt somehow transformed.
I got a chance to view the eclipse from the window at the YMCA. As I led my Cycling for Parkinson’s during the hour of the eclipse we listened to an Eclipse playlist (Thanks, NPR!) and shared the one pair of viewing glasses our volunteer Esther brought to class.
What is a Total Eclipse and why are they so profound? In the world of astronomy a total eclipse of the sun is nature’s most spectacular show. According to the Eclipse Chaser, “the total eclipse of the Sun is similar to the partial eclipse, but it is the event called totality that makes it special. Totality occurs when the observer (perhaps you) are perfectly in line with the Moon and the Sun. At the time of totality the entire bright disk of the Sun, called the photosphere, is completely hidden behind the Moon. Since the Moon is moving rapidly through space in its orbit around the Earth, this condition lasts for only seconds or moments. There is something else about our Moon that is remarkable. The size of the disk of the Moon in the sky is usually just slightly bigger than the disk of the Sun. The Sun is really huge, but it is 400 times farther away than the Moon. What this means is that if you can align yourself with the Moon and the Sun, the Moon will neatly and precisely cover the photosphere of the Sun. This is the total eclipse.”
Whoa. It is like we get to have a BRAND NEW DAY, in the middle of the day. Or, as put in an article in Mental Floss, “During the total phase when the light from the Sun’s photosphere is completely blocked, some animals react, the cows may start walking toward the barn. Horses may do the same. Crickets start chirping. You’ll hear frogs. Birds will go to roost. Chickens will react the same way they do at sunset. All animals, including the human ones, react to eclipses in some way.”
Reactions to eclipses span the continuum of total awe to outright terror. Some cultures view the eclipse as a shift in balance, a shift in time, an astrological “cosmic reboot.” Many look at a solar eclpise as part of the natural order that deserves respect, or as a time of reflection and reconciliation. Friends of mine who traveled many miles to view the eclipse described it as “otherworldly,” “awesome,” “very profound,” and “transformational.”
I know I am not alone in saying that for me, the most powerful aspect of the eclipse was the power of the shared experience. Many people commented on this. To quote a friend on Facebook: “Awesome experience!!!!! Shared my glasses with patients and staff in the parking lot. Loved seeing the awe and excitement on the faces of young and old alike!” Regardless of our belief system, or where we live in, or what shade of brown/white/green our skin is, it is possible to put down our defenses and bond through a simple yet otherworldly phenomenon even if it only lasts seconds or moments. Being part of something bigger than ourselves and sharing it with others is a critical component wellbeing. These are the moments that give us strength to keep moving, living and thriving in our messy lives.
This, in my humble non-astrological opinion, is the true power of the eclipse. BTW, the next total eclipse is scheduled on my birthday, 4/28/2024, and it’s supposed to be at its TOTALITY right here in Michigan. Save your glasses. I’m putting together my own playlist and I will gladly share.
Cosmos and Connections,