In just a short couple of weeks, one of the great astronomical events of the last 300 years will be upon us: The Great American Eclipse (or, as NASA is calling it, the “Eclipse Across America”). There is immense hoopla surrounding this event—people travelling from all over the globe to the US, many to our area; schools being cancelled; cities planning major parties and lectures; and lots of praying for clear skies. People have been reserving parking spots in select locations for over a year.
But what in the world is so special about an eclipse, anyway?
For one thing, the sheer ability to see the sun’s corona and chromosphere (the two outer layers) with the naked eye is quite a miraculous thing, as astronomy-oriented folks tell me. Secondly, it’s a rare occurrence just in general. While total solar eclipses happen regularly (about every 16 months or so), it’s far less common for them to happen where lots of people can witness them. The last time a total solar eclipse was visible across the US the way this one will be, was in 1776, the year America declared independence from Great Britain.
Finally, it’s an excuse to throw a party. And to gather with community, and to express awe, and to simply stop all ordinary business. It’s an opportunity to pause, and look around us together in wonder, and appreciate the miracle of this planet and our lives. In ancient times, eclipses were seen as things of great spiritual significance, portending either great luck or (more often) great ill. With our modern ability to understand, predict, and track the actual path of eclipses, some of the mystery is gone.
But let’s not lose the wonder.
We live in a miraculous reality—we have earth, sky, stars, moons. We are part of this immense, spinning, whirling universe. And we don’t really know why. So let’s all pause, as the sun goes behind the moon’s shadow for 2 or 3 brief moments, and say “wow, that’s amazing.”
You can join me at my farm for the eclipse, if you like. Westsiders of all ages are invited, and our farm is pretty much in the center line of totality. So we’ll be having a potluck picnic, enjoying one another’s company, and participating in this small cosmic miracle. Looking forward to sharing a moment in history with you.
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org with the number of cars and people you’ll be bringing, if you plan to attend.