The Solar Eclipse: Catalyst for Change
"I just want things to change!!" I yelled out with intense frustration. It was the next day after the solar eclipse, and I was beginning to understand why eclipses are regarded as a catalyst for change.
Rewind a bit, to twelve days before the eclipse. That morning was a memorable one for strange reasons. Upon awakening in the back of my truck in the sage covered deserts of Central Oregon, I opened my eyes and looked up at the sky from where I had been sleeping. A dark red, oversized sun, obscured by smoke from recent wildfires, was just starting to rise on the horizon. At the same time, an abnormally big, alpen-glowy full moon was also touching down as it began to set on the opposite horizon.
Since living out of my truck, I pay much more attention to the sky than I used to, and this sunrise struck me as especially peculiar. I had already been anticipating the solar eclipse for a couple of weeks by that time, so to see both the sun and moon meet as abnormally big saucers across from each other, it felt like they were saying, "the countdown begins."
As some of you might relate, there is something weird about the days leading up to a total solar eclipse. People had been waiting a long time for this perfectly calculated moment in our orbit through outer space, to see our sun and moon transformed upon their meeting, and it felt very odd... like knowingly floating through space toward a black hole. I probably would have forgotten all of these pre-eclipse sensations by now, but I was also overcome with a desire to write a lot more around that time. I even found myself scribbling my thoughts on little pieces of notepad paper--stopping in mid-task as if I was having a revelation that needed to be jotted down--often while I was at my day job or busily running errands.
The day before the eclipse, I drove 150 miles from Bend to Prairie City to camp out in the totality path in a rural place. At the last minute I had picked a place called Dixie Butte, basically by closing my eyes and sticking my finger on the map of my surroundings while in the little town of John Day. I had claimed a nice little camping spot to spend the night, but it was impossible to sleep the night before the eclipse. I was afraid I might sleep through my alarms and miss the whole show. It would be typical of me to have a freak accident like that, one that involves napping for way too long and missing something important. Ha. Despite the lack of sleep, I felt energized to hike up above the treeline to wait and watch on the morning of the big day.
Although the darkness and drama of "totality" only lasted two short minutes for us, the moon was passing in front of the sun for one hour beforehand, and another hour afterward. Seven minutes before all of this officially began to unfold, a gust of wind blew through the otherwise still air. I looked around and it seemed that no one else really noticed. I was surrounded by a bunch of people I hadn't met before--each of them a part of a group. At T-minus six minutes, a nearby dog was whining to its owner, who was also too distracted to pay notice.
Finally, at 9:10 a.m., I peered through my eclipse viewing glasses and it looked like a very tiny piece of the sun's edge was missing. People around me confirmed this with shouts of "we have contact at one o'clock!" Nerves kicked in, and I felt a pang of adrenaline flowing through my veins. The reality of finally experiencing this moment I had anticipated for a long time was becoming very apparent, and I didn't know what to do with myself as the minutes ticked by loudly.
In the few minutes leading up to totality, the breeze grew cold... but it didn't quite feel right. It was a strange combination of sudden chilly whispers in the otherwise warm air, as if the air conditioning had been turned on in a stale room. The sunlight dimmed, but if you paid close enough attention (and didn't blink for a while), it seemed to happen in obvious little leaps every few seconds... like someone with an unsteady hand was sliding a dimmer switch on a wall somewhere, but occasionally they forgot to keep sliding it for just a fraction of a second. As the sun disappeared behind the moon, colors became darker, richer, metallic. It was a type of sunlight (or twilight) that is difficult to describe, and I'm uncertain that we could ever recreate or mimic here on earth.
In what seemed like a sudden snap, the blindingly bright pinpoint of white light in the sky was transformed into an electric ring that sort of buzzed around the black center. It had an "aura" of soft light outside the edges of the circle, also known as the corona (the sun's plasma). People around me were yipping and shouting with excitement--and some were whimpering uneasily, including myself--which got me more worked up than I would've been if alone. I was shaking and barely holding back my tears. The shared energy among everyone, strangers or not, was palpable that morning, as each person was focused on the same basic thing: our sky, our solar system and the star that we (Earth and moon) revolve around. It was a powerful thing to experience.
Almost as quickly as it had appeared, there was another flash and the ring in the sky was replaced with the incredibly bright white light again. Those two minutes felt like a mere thirty seconds. Once it was over, things went back to normal quickly. I sat there in the grass and wondered what it meant, now that this eclipse event was already gone. The thing I had waited so long for was over now. Would things really just carry on as usual, I pondered? Things felt a little different... the same, but different. I wasn't sure why or how that could be. It was as if everything and everyone on that mountain was momentarily stripped off the face of it, strewn across the sky, and then placed exactly back where they were when the eclipse started. Things were "the same" yet something had happened, and things were slightly different.
The next day, I went back to work. Things felt the same as before... so much so that it was painful. My soul was thrashing about on this day, shouting, reaching, attempting to surpass its bodily limits, if you can imagine--but I wasn't sure why I felt this way. My daily/weekly routine, my job, my nights in the truck, my progress with my goals... suddenly I became aware of how complacent I have been for so long, to allow parts of my life that aren't fulfilling to remain the same. It was a kick in the ass. So, I'm here building this blog and putting even more energy into the things that make me happy, for starters.
I'm still making sense of the eclipse, but this seems to be the big takeaway for me: we must hold ourselves accountable for our happiness. We should not forget that we always have the power to make small changes toward being a better person and having a better, happier, more fulfilling life. As the old proverb goes, it starts with one small step.
What did the solar eclipse mean to you? Was it a ground breaking and life changing experience, or did it not live up to the hype? Did anything big change for you around that time? I'd love to hear about it!
Thanks for reading, and happy adventures :)