I just arrived home from a long day chasing the totality of today’s Great American Eclipse. I left with my wife, son, and his girlfriend at about 6:30 this morning. My day was about 14 hours long to catch a 2-minute glimpse of the moon covering the sun. Some people find this crazy, but I can tell you it was worth every minute and every frustration. Normally, the drive from Cheyenne to Guernsey, WY would take about 1 hour, 20 minutes, but today it took nearly 2 ½ hours. The return trip took about 5 hours of driving and waiting in traffic. The remainder of the day was spent sitting near the North Platte River watching the moon traverse the sun in anticipation of totality.
I know many people were content to see less than totality and some even refused to enjoy the eclipse at all, but it was the single most amazing thing I have ever witnessed. While I imagine watching your own child come into the world would beat the sight, I have and never will have that experience. Therefore, the totality of today’s eclipse was truly amazing and the greatest thing I have ever seen. Today was the first day, in a long time, that I did not fret and stew about my recent struggles to find a job and pay the bills. Although it wasn’t perfect, it was a transcendent day. While words and pictures can never do the experience justice, I will at least attempt to share what I saw.
About 10 minutes before totality, I noticed the tree leaves showing the eclipse on the ground. I called over the family and some bystanders and explained it to them. As a teacher, explaining the various phenomena tied to the eclipse was my third favorite part of the entire day (1. totality 2. spending time with my wife, son, and his girlfriend). Shortly before the moon covered the entire sun, we began to look for shadow snakes, but did not see them. However, we continued to look at the sun through our eclipse glasses until the last sliver of orange disappeared. And then, unexplainable excitement and awe occurred. Everything turned to dusk, the temperature dropped significantly, and Venus appeared unbelievably bright. Cheers rang out from everyone around us and I felt a kinship with everyone there. We had all traveled for this singular experience and banded together to witness this celestial event. Our differences and the ills of the world and our lives were forgotten as we gazed above and all around. For two minutes, we forgot about war, hostility, and turmoil and focused on the majesty before us.
Totality was not just an experience of the sun and moon above, but transformed the entire world around us. We experienced a 360-degree sunset on the horizon and the sounds of crickets permeated the still silence that followed the cheers and shouts. The wind died down and smiles formed on every face in the crowd. The sky above took on an ethereal, blue-purple quality that was breathtaking. Every hair stood on end and time seemed to stand still. Everything was exciting and haunting at the same time. The unknown became known and an electric peace seemed to mesmerize everyone. Yet, the sun and moon were the most amazing part of the entire experience. I could never have imaged what it would truly look like. The sun was completely blotted out by the moon which appeared as a black hole attempting to swallow everything in its vicinity. The corona of the sun shot out from behind the moon, but this event was different than imagined. While one expects to see yellow flames licking about, silvery gossamer threads danced and flowed from behind the moon instead. Life and beauty jumped from a void and then, as quickly as it started, it ended. The sun crept out from behind the moon and glasses were once again needed. However, there was no disappointment that it was over. I have never experienced anything similar. No one seemed to be upset that it was over so soon. The entire experience had been so beautiful, rare, and captivating that everyone seemed to be grateful merely for their chance to see it.
If you have never seen a total eclipse, I encourage you to do so. It is an event that has no peer. The next eclipse visible in the US will be April 8, 2024 and will traverse a path from Texas to Maine. Moreover, the greatest time of totality will be 4.5 minutes, compared to 2.5 minutes with today’s eclipse!
I recently completed my PhD in Education (Curriculum and Instruction) at the University of Wyoming. I have published multiple articles in peer reviewed journals and have a book chapter coming early next year. I aim to explore issues of privilege and equity of education, especially as they pertain to STEM education.