The Eclipse

solar eclipse lens flare picture
A photo capturing a tiny, crescent-shaped reflection of the August 21, 2017 eclipse.

On Monday morning, my coworkers and I filed out to the top story of our parking lot to watch the eclipse. My boss had made one of those pinhole projectors with a paper plate, and we stood around the wall, squinting to see the tiny crescent on the painted cement. Eventually, some other people from our building took pity on us and offered their eclipse glasses, and I risked my iPhone camera to snap a few pictures, capturing the eclipse via a lens flare.

How is it that we happen to live on a planet where this can happen? There has to be a certain distance between us and the moon and between the moon and the Sun in order for a total eclipse to be possible. So we’re lucky. But already, the moon is getting farther and farther away. If the human race continues to exist for 600 million years, our descendants won’t get to see what we saw in the USA on August 21. Like everything else, total eclipses are temporary.

Also temporary and (let’s be real) magical was the way people just…forgot about everything. Instead of giving our attention to bombast and manmade beauty, we devoted ourselves to this quiet movement in the sky. As Annie Dillard said in her essay “Total Eclipse”, “It was odd that such a well advertised public event should have no starting gun, no overture, no introductory speaker.” Instead, it started with a hush, and continued with a hush, and ended with awe.

Sure, I almost immediately began to see politics-related eclipse tweets and pictures of our Commander-in-Chief squinting directly into the sun, but for a second, we remembered that we’re tiny and made of stardust and have no control over so many things. And it felt…nice. Standing in the heightened shadows, which threw the normally hazy LA landscape into sharp relief, there was no pressure to satisfy anyone’s expectations, including my own. I felt like existing was enough.

As we all looked at the pictures on my iPhone later, my coworker was overcome. He smiled and said, “It definitely makes it seem like there’s someone out there, screwing with us.” Or, I added silently, someone wanting to give us a moment of quiet.