Eclipsed

For Wilshire Baptist Church

So how was your eclipse? Was it everything you hoped it would be? Mine never showed up, but it was great just the same.

As eclipse fever intensified over the weekend, I tried to decide what I would do. I didn’t have special glasses so I certainly wasn’t going to look directly at the sun because I value my sight too much. I’ve done the shadow boxes and pinhole projectors before, and to me that’s about as exciting as listening to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra over a walkie-talkie. Yes, it’s there—but not really. Although I have to admit that I’ve seen many of your photos of crescent shadows dotting the sidewalks and those were pretty cool.

Anyway, I decided I was going to focus my eclipse experience on watching the changing light. I’ve seen eclipses before, and as interesting as it is to see the sun disappear behind the moon, I find it equally interesting to watch the light change here on earth. It reminds me of scenes in old movies where they filmed during the day but used filters to pretend it was nighttime. But instead of looking like nighttime, it looks eerie. There’s light coming from above, and there are shadows on the ground, but the air looks gray and heavy; the world looks dead and dull.

So I sat under the trees in our backyard and waited. And waited. And nothing happened. The light didn’t get dull and dead under a cloudless sky. The air didn’t look gray and heavy. I checked the time on my iPhone and looked at a website, and yes, 1:09 p.m. was to have been the peak of that eerie, dreary light, but it never happened.

With nothing to see, I sat still and listened. I heard the shrill cry of a blue jay, cars and trucks rumbling by on Highway 78, a lawn mower groaning in the tall grass, the tinkle of wind chimes, a jet airplane whistling above, a broom brushing across a sidewalk, the popping of a nail gun on a roof, and air conditioning compressors buzzing against the Texas heat. I heard the sounds of life being lived all around me but I saw nobody, which was eerie in its own way. The first time I saw another living thing, it was a man riding by on a bicycle with a Chihuahua clutched tightly under his arm.

While I didn’t see anything in the sky, for the first time in a long time I sat still and listened to life. The world didn’t end, and in fact it didn’t even stop; it kept going. During the eclipse babies were born, people died, meetings were held, lunches were served, groceries were bought, stocks rose and fell. The Earth got a little older and we along with it.

The next total eclipse is scheduled for Monday, April 8, 2024. I say that as if we have a say in the matter—as if we can pencil it in between a business meeting and dinner with friends. It will happen with or without us. Some of us will still be here and some won’t. Some of us will stop what we’re doing to watch it, and some of us will just carry on.

Some people who saw the eclipse this time around said it made them mindful of the majesty of creation and the power of the creator. I felt the same thing even though I saw nothing at all.

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