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Eclipse Jitters

Whether total or partial, it’s worth it to watch the eclipse – no matter the weather.

There is only one day left until the Total Solar Eclipse, and I’m feeling a bit anxious. 

It’s something I’ve been waiting for for a very long time, and that’s a lot of pressure to put onto a 2-minute experience. 

I first heard about it back in 8th grade Earth Science class in 2010. When we studied eclipses my teacher said, “The next total solar eclipse in our area will be in 2024, fourteen years from now.” He joked, “We’ll have an Earth Science class reunion party to watch it.” 

Somehow, those fourteen years have passed by, and tomorrow it will be here. 

It’s nerve-wracking because my area is notorious for its fickle weather patterns. The eclipse itself was predicted at least a century ago, but we won’t know the weather until the day-of, and it could change by the hour. All week I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed for clear skies, as we plan out potential viewing spots. 

But I keep thinking back to this past October, when we had a partial eclipse. Unfortunately, it turned out to be overcast that day. Most people I know said “Oh, too bad,” and decided not to watch the eclipse at all. Even when I went to visit our local nature center for their event, the educators were talking to people and doing demonstrations inside the building. They didn’t even try to watch it for real! 

I wasn’t deterred. In my nature journal I wrote, “Instead of bailing, I’m going to see what I can. And even if I don’t see anything ‘extraordinary’, I’m still going to have an hour spending time with the sun, knowing that the eclipse, something special, is going on.” 

As it turned out, I did get to see something extraordinary through my eclipse glasses. After some time, I wrote “OHMYGOSH the clouds have thinned just enough to see it through them! I am seeing right now with my own eyes the moon coming in front of the sun!” And twenty minutes later, I wrote “sun coming in and out of the mist” which was perhaps even more magical than it would have looked on a clear day. I continued “Sometimes things don’t have to be fully, clearly revealed to have a special interaction with them. You just have to not give up on it.” 

I’m trying to bring that same mindset to watching the Total solar eclipse, to alleviate the pressure. (Full confession - I did get to see Totality in 2017 in Kentucky. So even if it’s cloudy tomorrow, I’ve already been lucky enough to see Totality once in my life. But there’s something unique and special about seeing a total eclipse in my own home region, which I’ve been looking forward to since middle school. We’re extremely lucky that this is happening in our lifetime. There won’t be a total eclipse here again for over three hundred years!) 

I don’t want the eclipse to be just one more thing I “extract” from nature, only thinking about what I can get, with a “gimme gimme gimme” attitude. And clinging to expectations is what causes the anxiety. Even if it’s cloudy, something very special is happening. We get to be there and be part of it. We are spending time with the sun

So, today I’ve been doing some deep breathing and Sun Salutations. I’ve been listening to the song “Sun” by Sleeping at Last from their Space album (one of my favorite music albums). I’m looking up citizen science projects from NASA, and I think I want to try the Eclipse Soundscapes project. Maybe the SunSketcher project, too. No matter what happens, I’ll have a good time with family and friends. No matter what, we’ll see the world go dark for a few moments in the middle of the day. That sudden light-to-dark switch would have itself been a very foreign experience to people before electric lights were commonplace. 

I highly recommend seeing the Total solar eclipse if you have any possible chance of doing so. Call in sick, drive a few hours if you need to. It truly is one of the most incredible natural phenomena I’ve experienced in my entire life, and I hope I get to see it again tomorrow. 

If you have the opportunity to watch a partial eclipse, take full advantage of that too! Even a partial eclipse is a rare experience that can fill you with awe. We are the only planet in our solar system that gets eclipses. Enjoy being an Earthling, on our planet, celebrating a special occasion with our “brother sun” and “grandmother moon.” 

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