August 21, 2017 will long be a day to remember, the Great Coast to Coast Eclipse displayed itself in full totality across the United States, from Oregon to the Carolinas. Millions of Americans gathered to watch, at public celebrations, at private parties, in back yards, and on breaks at work. For some areas of the country, it was the first total coverage eclipse in centuries!
Most people find an eclipse significant, because they are so rare. Indeed, seeing a full coverage is often a once in a lifetime opportunity. Others believe there is a spiritual meaning behind the phenomenon. Personally, I have strong feelings about them because one of my sons was born on the day of an eclipse. Although on that occasion, the visible coverage at my home was only 75%, it was still something very special.
This year, the 100% coverage area was close enough to my home that I could make a trip to the full totality zone. I drove 130 miles to the Shawnee Forest, in southern Illinois, to get a first hand view. I planned an extra hour and a half for the drive, but, with traffic, I barely arrived on time.
Driving along a hilly back road looking for somewhere without a crowd, I found what looked like a quiet spot on a little slope. Although my original intention was to join a party somewhere, during the drive, I felt compelled to watch the happening alone.
My little hill was clear when I parked, for about 100 yards in both directions. As soon as I was out of the car though, a German gentleman jogged the 100 yards from a vehicle to the south, and told me it was starting, to get my glasses on.
I threw the solar glasses on, and looked up. He was right. I hurriedly unpacked my gear, and took a quick couple pictures of my location. Then I heard a voice from across the street. I looked over, and saw an elderly woman on a lawn chair beneath a tree, who I hadn't noticed until that moment. "Why don't you come on over here, and sit in the shade, and watch with me," she said.
There is no way to decline such an invitation!
I had hoped to experiment with my photography techniques for a while before hand, but that did not work out. So I tested different methods while we talked, as the eclipse progressed, with varying degrees of success. I tried a solar blanket. I tried a welding shield. I tried no filter but the shade of the trees.
I explained to my host what I was doing as we went along, until I found something that worked.
She in turn shared many of her experiences with me, about her family, the neighbors, her breast cancer, and her husband who is no longer living.
When full totality arrived, we cheered together. We could hear the neighbors cheering as well, and we laughed.
She pointed out how profoundly the clouds were standing out in the darkness. She pointed out some stars I had not noticed.
I did not give the eclipse my full attention as I had planned. I did not get 50 excellent pictures, as I had hoped. I did not meditate, and ponder my life as I previously thought I should. But I do not believe that anything happens by chance.
My drive home took 7 hours, for the 120 miles. The traffic was the worst I have ever seen, literally, in my entire life. I had a lot of time for thoughts, and while I drove, I understood why I ended up there, in the front yard on a little hill, of a woman I had never met.
We never exchanged names, but I know my visit meant something to her. I know her invitation meant something to me. As I drove, I remembered, with utter clarity, the real reason for this website, my true purpose at this phase in my life.
All of that, will be another story for another day. But once again, an eclipse brought something very special into my life. I guess they will always be significant to me, and bring very strong feelings, these rare astronomical phenomenon.
So, I am look forward to 2024!
For pictures of people enjoying the eclipse, and other views, see National Geographic: National Geographic Photo Galleries
For more on why this website was started, see our About page, here: Who We Are..