Before I sat down to begin this post I knew that it would be impossible to even come close to describing what we witnessed on August 21, 2017.
I knew that the experience would be awesome. I knew that it would be memorable. And knew that it would be something that I would probably want to do again in my lifetime.
But I did not know that I would truly have no words to describe just how beautiful and awe inspiring the solar eclipse under totality would actually be. Often during life events we can take pictures and though those pictures don’t always do it justice, we can usually with the aid of stories, descriptions and explanations, describe these things to people in a way that at least come somewhat close to just how something was or how enjoyable it was or what it made us feel. However, as I learned Monday, with the total eclipse, no picture or description, no words or articulated thought that I can think of even comes close to letting you know what I actually saw and felt with my own eyes as I witnessed this amazing celestial phenomenon with my family and my friend Adam.
Now I don’t get excited over too much in life; but when I learned months ago that a solar eclipse was ‘scheduled’ to sweep across America and that we had the opportunity to see it in our ‘backyard’ of Colorado – I knew I wanted in. The days passed by as they do and then the special glasses arrived from Amazon and then the media frenzy began to gain steam on the radio and television in the weeks ahead; and so my excitement level steadily grew. And so did the predictions of mass traffic and bottle-necked highways into Wyoming. So I began my study and research of the path of totality. (Thanks Michael B. for your inspiration back in May to figure out a way to be under that path!)
Now, I knew I really wanted to avoid a direct path north from Denver, up Interstate 25; as I figured that is what most people would take to get up to Casper, Wyoming. So during my rudimentary research online I found that Alliance, Nebraska was going be under the path and that many alternative routes could be taken to reach the town that did not involve driving on I-25. So that became our plan (um – my plan – I think Cortney thought I was nuts for this entire idea in the first place!). About a week out, with the help of my friend Adam – the earth science major in college! – and our trusty navigator in the car on eclipse day, we began watching the weather. We really wanted to avoid a cloudy situation. And sure enough the night before, we found that too much of Nebraska had a risk of cloud cover, so Torrington, Wyoming became our target.
That is how we found ourselves waking up the kids at 4:45am and venturing out early Monday morning from Denver, to make our way north in an attempt to reach totality. Torrington, Wyoming is about 200 miles from home, roughly 3 hours if all goes well. And you know what?! for the most part it was smooth sailing. We hit a few slowdowns here and there, a couple of potty breaks along the way, but we ended up navigating our way up this county road, across that state highway and eventually by 10:00am we found a sweet spot right there in the town of Torrington ready for the event.
Just about 10:30 the moon began its journey across the surface of the sun. Now I know I wasn’t going to be the only person standing in the shadow of the moon that day; in fact I have no idea how many people were watching, millions I am sure. But as the moon keep blotting out more and more of the sun and the light began to change ever so slightly and the wind began to change its patterns and the heat retreated delicately, a sense of something grand began to creep it’s way into my mind. I was going to witness something along with millions of other people in this country. We were all watching the sun and the moon together; two celestial objects that we so frequently pay little or no attention to – that we often overlook and take for granted.
And yet here we were all together. And when in the final seconds before totality as the sun valiantly fought to shine it’s last remaining rays down to earth – the town of Torrington nearly turned to night – and the people around began to shout and cheered on the moon to do it! And then it happened – the moon did it’s heavenly work, we pulled our glasses off and the stars and planets began to twinkle in the sky and there above us, was the most beautiful and indescribably amazing sight I have ever seen – the bluish and grayish ring of solar flares, dancing in the now blackened sky is best I know how to describe it.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” wrote the psalmist David so long ago and so true to this day. The sun, the moon and the earth perfectly aligned to put on a spectacular show, “they have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” You all know where I stand in my belief of God, my trust in His son Jesus. I truly cannot fathom how anyone, whom has witnessed a solar eclipse in the path of totality, the the total shadow of the moon, can argue against the existence of our creator. This event, I think, is God showing off his mighty works, his beautiful creation, reminding us all who He is. Not for bragging or for demonstrating his strength and greatness; but because he loves to create and loves to show those whom he loves. It is like our children or our families or our friends that want to show and tell us what they made or have done; because they love us and want to share something special to them with us.
Writing this now, just a little over 24 hours later, and having had a short period of time to reflect on the experience and the feelings that have arose within me since; I can not think of an event in my lifetime where everyone that experienced it came away with similar, if not the same, feelings. Of whom expressed and uttered the same word or sound nearly simultaneously – the simple word ‘wow’ and/or the collective short gasp of amazement that involuntarily escaped their mouths. The very special thing about this event and the experience of totality was it positive nature. Sadly perhaps, I can really only recount negative or terrible events in the past where shared feelings occurred among everyone. The events that come to mind are 9/11 or the Challenge disaster or the tsunami in the Indian Ocean – where we all experienced heartache and grief and sadness and sympathy for the victims.
But the eclipse – the totality that we witnessed – was really positive and I think creates a uniform wonder. I am so thankful that as a family, and with our good friend Adam, we were able to take the time to drive and experience this awesome thing that God created for us to witness. I feel also so blessed by the past half year to have been on this journey – this Get Living Adventure. I would not trade any of it for anything.
Following the 2 minutes and 2 seconds of totality that we experienced; we ventured back home. And just because we were so close to a state we thought we were going to visit on our 6 month journey but did not, we took the route home through Nebraska!
The goal I set out with before seeing the eclipse was to create a special memory for the family; so that one day the kids would be like, “you remember when crazy Dad stuck us in the car for 10 hours to drive to see the sun with those silly glasses?” Hopefully I branded upon their minds, hearts and souls a sight they will never forget – for I know I never will. I was therefore overly grateful and joy filled by Hadley’s journal entry on Tuesday during school.