I didn’t expect it at all but, for that instant, a wave of emotion shot through me. The lump in my throat was unmistakable. How amazing to look directly at the sun — no blinking, no squinting, eyes wide open. Looking it dead on. That was something.
Lucky me to be living in the totality path of the Solar Eclipse on Aug. 21. All I had was walk next door to breakfast with eighteen people gathered together for the event of a lifetime. A similar scene, of course, was happening all over the U.S., but this was personal.
Setting the scene: Mr. Host stands in front of a large camp stove in his backyard, frantically cooking a mountain of bacon and wishing he’d started an hour earlier. I hover over the plate, slowly waving my arms to deter the yellow jackets who’ve discovered gold. He’s just hoping they won’t tell their friends back at the hive! Mrs. Host is still in the kitchen cutting celery swizzle sticks for Bloody Marys. Watermelon, muffins and french toast are already on the table.
Hurry up. 30 minutes ‘til the star attraction. The Eclipse will be seen clearly in a backyard with no trees to block the spectacular view. Eat, talk. Eat, talk. Mr. ScienceGuy passes around his large pinhole viewing box for our amazement, and Mr. Drone sets up his new toy to play with later. Miss Skeptical and I are both jittery about the safety of official eclipse glasses. (I weenie out and just glance every 10 seconds!)
Finally, food consumed. Then… silence, as the countdown begins with the help of Mr. iPhoneApp. Silence as the moon starts across the sun. I digress for an instant when I see that first little nip on the side of the sun — the Apple trademark flashes through my mind. Like slow motion photography, the moon inches its way to the center, until finally clicking itself into place smack dab in the middle of the sun. A cheer from the crowd, (as if that last lagging marathon runner, who started sinking toward the ground in the home stretch, finally drags herself across the finish line.)
Conversation knits us together.
As the full sun slowly emerges from it’s crescent form and the day gets back to its summer’s heat, the crowd slowly disperses. As parties do, the group of 18 splits into predictable pods of 3 or 4, yakkers who take off to wherever the conversation lead them, listeners who learn something new. Reflections of the Event eventually take a backseat. Pod-1 drifts to the vegetable garden, mulling over heirloom tomatoes and dandelions. Pod-2 is drone enthusiasts, all looking up at the hovering toy and bee-like buzzing that Mr. Drone has launched. Pod-3 is where solar science turns into a mini-classroom.
It’s truly amazing to look around and see that the entire group has split — as if by command — into trios. The backyard is suddenly dotted with six little animated groups who don’t know they’ve been maneuvered by their DNA. Not too close, not too far apart. I’ve notice a similar scene in fields of cattle. Each one munches approximately the same distance from the next, as if Mr. Farmer had chalked out a grid for them to follow.
By the end, as conversations are spent and food is being gathered, there’s a lone teenager sitting with her head tented from the crowd. Maybe just tired from the night before, but I suspect she’s secretly texting or tweeting to catch up from the mornings “distraction”.
Thank you Jennifer and Michael, for accumulating neighbors and friends to celebrate the moment together. It was the best. I’ve never been a science kind of girl and wasn’t prepared to be amazed… but I was.
SECRET: Put together a little gathering. The neighborhood you live in is more so than you might think. There are bound to be times when you will need each other. Start small and invite the neighbors who live across the street and on each side of you. Expand down the street the next time if you want, or down the hall for apartment dwellers. That feeling of community is comforting, even if you think you’re a loner.
Weeded out this week: The notion that I have to wait until I accumulate lots of friends in my new town to have a party. Bringing my neighbors together is reason enough.