Monday, August 21

Solar Eclipse 2017

I have been looking forward to the solar eclipse for over a year. I'm pretty sure it was still 2015 when I first read that there would be a total solar eclipse in the USA in 2017 and, bonus, its path of totality would go just north of us. We could totally see it! 

Obviously I jumped at the chance to view the eclipse from Lake Doniphan, a campground where I spent many summer weeks growing up. We drove up Sunday afternoon, and spent the day swimming, canoeing, and exploring. They even put on a campfire for us eclipse-chasers. I have told my family so many times about campfires and how much I loved the singing and fun of them; I was thrilled that they could experience a little of that fun too. 

Then Monday morning, this morning, arrived, Eclipse Day. And a huge gray storm rolled in. Lightning. Thunder. Rain. Very little chance of seeing the sun. I was devastated. How could nature do this to me? 

Andrew and I talked and I fretted and we obsessively checked the weather radar. (Or tried to check; the wifi was not keeping up with the demand.) Our dear friends Christy and John and their kids left camp just before lunch in search of clear skies. Should we do that too? We decided during lunch, around 11:25, that we should leave too. It was too gray, too rainy there. But the weather radar showed we didn't have far to go to find sun. 

We rushed through lunch and headed to the car. Totality was happening at 1:08, so had about an hour before it was really just too late. We drove west. We debated driving north. Just 5 or so minutes into the drive, we saw sun. We pulled over when we could and grabbed eclipse glasses from the back of the van. We let the kids out momentarily and we all peeked skyward, glasses in place.

It. Was. So. Worth it. 

That first glimpse of the moon crossing the sun. Just a teeny bit, you'd never notice the sun wasn't quite as bright. But we were thrilled. Cheering and jumping. It definitely felt like we had made the right call. We were going to see it, not just wonder if it would be clear enough to see it. 

But the storm still seemed close, so we drove on a bit further. When we got to Liberty, we debated going further north, like the radar indicated was a good choice. Or, I pointed out, we could just stop near there. The sun was shining and there appeared to be plenty of blue sky. 

We parked in the lot of a large church. Quite a few other people were parked there watching the eclipse as well. We set up our chairs and blanket and settled in. 

Christy and John texted, said they were still trying to find a clear spot but were in Liberty. We're in Liberty, I said! Come to this church, watch with us! And they did. And it was so much fun. 

How lucky that they found us, that they motivated us to venture out to see the eclipse and not miss it. How lucky that though the clouds surrounded us on every horizon, the sky above stayed clear long enough to see through totality. 

We had totality for just over 2 minutes. But that time flew by. I remember looking up, looking around for stars. Saw just one. Noticed the parking lot lights came on. Noticed how dark it was. Noticed how light it still was. Noticed how the horizon looked pink and orange, just like a sunset--but that the sun was still high in the sky. Tried to also notice my kids, my husband--what were they thinking and experiencing? 

I took a short video. Two short videos? It's (they're) terrible. I wasn't really looking at the phone, just wanted to soak it all in. It was emotional, overwhelming. Went by way too fast. I wish I could have stopped time for a few more minutes. 

And then, so quickly, it was over. Glasses back on. Saw the sun's sliver on the other side. And the clouds moved in within moments. Our timing was incredible, really. We got to see the most amazing part of the eclipse, and then before we even loaded the lawn chairs back into the van, it was raining. Unbelievable. 

I feel so fortunate to have experienced this. I hope Milo and Olive will remember it. That's the downside of having a once-in-a-lifetime experience happen when you're only 5 or 7 years old. Who knows, maybe we'll travel to the 2024 eclipse. 

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