The above picture was taken by a friend of mine who lives in Salem, Oregon. “The Great American Eclipse” started on the Oregon Coast and cut a southeasterly swath across the United States. This was the first time since February 1979 that a full eclipse was seen from the contiguous United Stated, but then only five states in the Northwest experienced total darkness. The moon hasn’t covered this much of the sun as seen in the United States since 1918. My friend shared that it felt like a snow day in Salem. Shops were closed, people didn’t go to work, and a lot of special activities took place.
We weren’t so fortunate in Blaine, Minnesota. We were told that we could enjoy 87 percent of eclipse. At 12:30 Sally Narr and I decided to sit outside for our weekly meeting. The sky was cloudy—no chance to see the moon go in front of the sun. But it got darker—or did it? I wasn't sure if this was my imagination. Sally and I kept saying to each other—it’s getting darker, right? Some part of us wanted it to get darker as if we were rooting for the eclipse to take place. Most of the cars driving by our church had their lights on. Was this intentional or did the something in the car car recognize that it was darker and automatically turn the lights on. If I hadn’t known that an eclipse was happening I would have thought that the clouds were extra heavy for the day.
I ended up watching videos of people watching the eclipse. I can still hear the “oohs" and "ahs" in people’s voices when the moon went over the sun. Their voices expressed a childhood delight.
We had people from our congregation who traveled to be in the zone of totality. If I wasn’t working I might have too. Even if eclipses happen frequently all around the world, I could imagine feeling that something happened when the sun was blocked by the moon.
For one day I was reminded that we on the earth are not the center of the universe. We are one small speck in a huge galaxy of time, matter, and space. Given the our place in the universe, it makes any current troubles that I have quite small.
The Psalmist had it right. What are humans in the vast cosmic galaxy of space? (Psalm 8) We really are nothing. Watching an event that we could predict but not control was a helpful reminder of our place in the universe.