For the months leading up to the total solar eclipse, the air has been charged with excitement, wonder, and skepticism.
The core emotion was belief. The belief that something so wonderful, so striking could happen and we could witness it first-hand.
The promise of a rare and incredible event, that we couldn’t fully anticipate, fueled the tension between hype and wonder.
Totality reflects the true definition of awesome.
Totality was truly remarkable.
Corvallis Prepares for Totality
Corvallis, Oregon, celebrated and capitalized on being in the path of totality.
The library hosted informational events, stores sold eclipse T-shirts and viewing glasses, a coffee shop baked “once-in-a-lifetime” eclipse cookies, farms offered their land for camping and viewing, and locals stocked up on groceries and gas in anticipation of a population influx.
Many organizations gave their employees the day off to keep them out of traffic and give them the opportunity to experience totality.
This wonder has captivated humanity for centuries.
In 1894, Mabel Loomis Todd, Emily Dickinson’s first editor, wrote “Total Eclipses of the Sun.” Marrying science with poetic prose, Todd provided riveting accounts of the total solar eclipse experience:
“Then, with frightful velocity, the actual shadow of the Moon is often seen approaching, a tangible darkness advancing almost like a wall, swift as imagination, silent as doom. The immensity of nature never comes quite so near as then, and strong must be the nerves not to quiver as this blue-black shadow rushes upon the spectator with incredible speed. A vast, palpable presence seems overwhelming the world.”
In 1878, 31-year-old Thomas Edison arrived in Rawlins, Wyoming for the total eclipse, only to find the hotels completely occupied. He resorted to setting up an experiment in a chicken coop. His makeshift setup worked fine, until totality when the chickens returned to their coop thinking it was nighttime.
After witnessing the widespread appreciation of the “immensity of nature,” I thought, this spirit must be captured!
Not the hype, but the spirit of appreciation.
On my morning run, I observed shreds of appreciation not typically present at 6:30 a.m. A woman, clutching her yellow mug of coffee, stood on her sidewalk and gazed at the sky. A wagon packed with blankets and lawn chairs was drug down the sidewalk by a lady wearing an eclipse themed T-shirt. She looked ready for a rock concert.
At our neighborhood park, multigenerational groups geared up to capture nature’s biggest show.
My heart raced as 10:16 a.m. approached. As the temperature dropped, a dark-blue veil blanketed the once sunny sky and Venus twinkled. Birds stopped chirping and a hum of anticipation emanated from the crowd.
Cheers and claps erupted. Totality was upon us!
For 1 minute and 40 seconds, we peeled off our safety glasses and gazed, awestruck at the white-blue rays exploding behind the black orb.
I expected silence. Instead, the field was abuzz with exclamations of pure fascination.
“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” ― William Shakespeare
Spirit of Totality
What if we could capture this spirit of totality and apply it to other natural wonders?
What if the routine and unique were approached with a similar sense of appreciation?
What if passing seasons, rising suns, blooming flowers, and towering mountain ranges struck us with total awe?
While visiting Thor’s Well, a collapsed sea cave, located on the Oregon coast, we overheard a teenager groan, “It looked way bigger on the internet.”
Did we hear that right?
Sure, if you had traveled miles to witness the powerful sinkhole, a sleepy surge of water seem underwhelming. But what you didn’t feel, as you scrolled through Google Images, was the salty air kiss your skin, or the lava rocks pulse underneath your feet as the waves thundered.
This mentality, that nature is here to serve us, directly contradicts with what I witnessed during the eclipse.
I witnessed people break their Monday routine to literally cheer for nature.
I saw strangers exchange smiles and notes about their viewing experience.
I’m at risk of sounding super hippy-dippy, but I think it’s vital to reflect on everyday natural wonders, not just the rare and remarkable.
I believe this reflection will turn into respect and bloom into a mindful appreciation and awareness.
I’d wager we’d treat our world with more respect, not as a resource for our consumption.
As we move on with our post-totality lives, I urge you to continue the celebratory spirit that coursed through our nation these past few weeks.
Take note of the small natural wonders that are totally awe-inspiring in their own way.
I believe this daily practice can deepen your sense of connection and appreciation for the beauty that surrounds you.