Eclipse Lessons

Hello, Hopespotters! It certainly has been a while. My brain, and the creative juices in it, has been much like today’s sky, a brightness encroached upon and ultimately obstructed with a naturally driven darkness. I’ve had a summer full of lots to say and yet nothing to say about it. Through the summer heat, a lot has transpired that’s left me both contemplative and speechless. Today’s Solar Eclipse, the first in the US in thirty-eight years, gave me a bit of inspiration.

“Solar Eclipse 2017” and the hype leading up to it has actually annoyed me. (Sorry, not sorry) I don’t have a reservoir of enthusiasm for most things related to “space”. I have always believed there are a lot of things going on right here on planet Earth, right in our own neighborhoods, that are more deserving of our attention, our research, our funds. I understand the solar eclipse is a naturally occurring phenomenon and a rare one at that. I am just generally drowning in media, as I think most of us are, and I had become sick to death of the mania. The ENDLESS messages about “NASA approved” eclipse glasses, the memes, the rearranging of schedules left me unreasonably irritated.  And then we were going to dig out poor Bonnie Tyler, who’s voice was already going in 1985, to croak out “Total Eclipse of the Heart” because, why not? I just couldn't.

But eclipse day arrived and as a Mom of two boys, I thought it was important to shelf some of my disinterest. To do so, I found a way to look at the eclipse and share it with Ryan and Sean in my terms, ways that resonated with me. I would leave the photography cueing and circadian rhythm observations to the experts, and I would observe, and ultimately respect this event, in a way that I found I actually needed. I’m sure I’m not the first to have these thoughts or reflections, but I’m still going to take a stab at articulating them my way.

First lesson: This Solar Eclipse was coming whether I liked it or not. Whether my annoyance was reasonable or not, I have had/ seen/ born witness to a lot of sadness lately. Good people losing battles to disease, relationships being tested, parents bringing first borns to college. These “naturally occurring” passages are hard and can leave us feeling dark.  Too often, through no fault of our own, life happens and dark cold shadows are cast on our normally bright existences. No amount of avoidance will work and no amount of annoyance will lighten the darkness. The naturally occurring eclipses come- and can be pretty damn scary.

Second lesson: To look at the Sun or not? One of the most debated eclipse topics seemed to be whether or not one could look at the sun pre and post totality. The authoritative warnings and desperate searches for safe glasses seemed to suggest one’s face might melt like the Nazi’s in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” if one simply looked to the sky. The truth is it is never safe to stare at the sun- the warnings exist because it is only during an event like an eclipse that people might take the time to really look, for extended periods of time, at the landscape of sky. Isn’t this really a lost metaphor? Why do we seem to only look at or pay attention to the “Light” when the darkness looms? Why do we only give credence to the power of the Sun (or Son-see what I did there?) when its presence and power is threatened to be obscured? You know that friend with whom you reconnected following your spouse’s cancer diagnosis who had lots of resources for you? Or when your child, who struggles academically or socially, gets assigned that teacher that totally gets him? How about the perfectly timed “I love you” text that comes when your heart is heavy? You see, you don’t have to look to know the Light is always present and powerful and you don’t need to only remember that on a day marked by darkness.

Third lesson: The best way to sit in the dark is together. As the path of “totality” neared Roswell, Georgia, Kevin, Ryan, Sean and I went outside in the backyard, with two pairs of glasses among us. Not knowing what to expect, we sat passing the glasses back and forth and watching the clock for the magic 2:36PM. In anticipation, we became quiet (a Buckley rarity). We noticed the temperature drop and we listened to the crickets begin to chirp.  We observed the many crescent shadows around us and then we did the most unusual thing. Together, in quiet, and without question, we let the dark pass over us. We surrendered to the power of nature and we simply sat. Together. On the little grass hill in the backyard. And sooner than we would have imagined, the light came back.

Fourth lesson: The light came back. Even in my presently grumpy, eclipse cynical heart, the resurrection of the Sun could not be lost on me. The Light always comes back. Post totality, the light was dim at first, but my very favorite part of the viewing came at the moment when the birds, who sing their morning song, began to sing in the mid afternoon. With momentum, the Earth got brighter and just like a stone that was rolled away to allow the Light out, the Moon moved on knowing it is a poor match for the almighty power of the sun. Nature put on a show for us today for pure reinforcement of a primal message: This too shall pass. The Sun will Rise tomorrow. The Light never really went away. There is healing. There is forgiveness. There can be growth because the light never really goes away.

Final lesson: Don’t mourn the miracle. If I wasn’t feeling so enlightened, I could say a thing or two about some of the “watchers” I saw interviewed today on the news. Suffice to say, there were some colorful characters. By and large, each observer shared feelings of being awestruck, amazed, gleeful for the opportunity for having a clear day to watch the celestial magic. For these people, I worry there might be an eclipse hangover- a sadness that they’ve seen the most special thing they’ll see until our next solar eclipse in 2024. Take heart, Eclipsians- the same power that orchestrated the majestic miracle of today's show in the sky- does some really amazing things every day. Set your alarm clock and watch the sunrise. Or go to the beach and watch the tide come in. Find a baby learning to walk. Visit a rehab hospital and watch people re-learning to walk. Miracles are EVERYWHERE and they happen EVERYDAY. And you don’t even have to buy expensive but flimsy glasses off of Amazon to see them.

The moon is now in the sky doing its “normal” thing in its “normal” place. Solar Eclipse 2017 has been officially put to bed. It is my humble hope that some of today’s lessons stay wide awake in your hearts.

“Nations, like stars, are entitled to eclipse. All is well, provided the light returns and the eclipse does not become endless night. Dawn and resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light is the same as the survival of the soul.” - Victor Hugo