Seriously. When I was a little kid, my parents took me to North Carolina to view a total eclipse of the Sun. I couldn’t have been more than six, but I remember those 2-1/2 minutes of totality vividly, right down to the taste of the chives growing in the field where my father set up his camera tripod.
A total eclipse of the sun is one of the great astronomical experiences. Like viewing a comet, except that it only lasts for a couple of minutes.
When totality comes, an eerie darkness falls on the land. Animals are disturbed; I heard dogs howling throughout the total eclipse period. That flaming ring of light in the sky presides over a landscape suddenly alien: not night, not day, but something else.
Yes, it is spectacular.
But when you think about it, phenomena of the Universe that we see every day are just as spectacular…they’re just not as rare. An eclipse is fantastic because we almost never see them.
Is it as marvelous as a truly great sunset? As a slow cascade of fog pouring over a mountain ridge, or the dance of trees in a high wind, or the ripples on a lake as a first sprinkle of rain begins? The scent of fresh rain, or the sound of wind rushing through a forest, or the taste of a wild raspberry, or the feeling of submerging in a natural hot spring?
My point is that the miracles of Nature are omnipresent. It is only our busy lives and their commonplace nature that lets us gloss over them, ignore them as too unimportant to give the attention they deserve.
So let’s try a little harder, shall we? The glories of the world and the Cosmos are with us every day.
By all means, revel in the marvels of tomorrow’s solar eclipse. If you’re fortunate enough to see it in totality, you’ll treasure that memory forever. If not, still get out there and use a pinhole projector to see the shadow of the eclipsed moon, or observe directly with appropriate eye protection. I like to use a colander: it casts dozens of little images of the eclipsed sun on the ground or a sheet of paper (and besides, it’s Sacred to the Flying Spaghetti Monster!)
But see if you can take some time, going forward, to notice the many gifts of beauty and strangeness that the world serves up for us all the time. We don’t have to wait for a solar eclipse to roll around to know that we are blessed to live surrounded by miracles, by a Universe characterized by magnificence.