Solar eclipse

DQ sign reading "It's eclipse not apocalypse relax"

Not since Y2K have I experienced such a wave of panic around me, in preparing for what was to come. Leading up to April 8th, instead of stocking up on water and non perishables, people were clamouring for a pair of ISO labelled dark glasses, to prevent damage to their eyes when looking towards the sun. Then, for a brief period of time, when in a state of “totality”, they could remove the glasses and see the celestial magnificence with bare eyes.

Some schools ended their school day early. Others gave their students the day off and many employees stayed home. With a history of eye concerns, I wasn’t going to take a chance of looking towards the sun, even with approved dark glasses. So, I pulled down all the shades, found a TV channel that appeared to be providing an accurate and vivid description of solar eclipse happenings across Canada, and settled down for two hours of TV watching with hubby, who I’d requested share this piece of history with me.

One of our daughters was working from her home, so I knew that her eyes were out of the danger zone, but my other daughter had to drive to a meeting that was scheduled to end during the eclipse. I asked if she could change the time of her meeting. She thought that I was being neurotic. Intellectually, I suspected that she had likely seen more warnings on social media than I had, and my suspicions were confirmed when she told me that her boyfriend had called her in a panic from his place of work, to share his concern about not closing the blinds to block the sun coming in through their large apartment windows, and potentially risking their cat going blind. She consoled him by saying that the cat would likely be sleeping through the whole event and that cats didn’t typically look at the sun.

Back in my home, while watching the live coverage on TV and raising the blinds in the living room just enough to observe our darkening outside environment (but not enough that there would even be a chance that we would glimpse the sun), my husband and I couldn’t help feeling moved by the experience of watching others share their emotions as they witnessed the changes in light, temperature and animal behaviour outside. It was especially emotional hearing the young children describe their experiences. How much better does it get than a science lesson outside of the classroom and an opportunity to turn them onto learning more about space and astronomy and the universe, of which we are all a small part.

People described their experience as awe inspiring, magical and moving. In fact, a large focus of the broadcast we were watching, was on the emotional aspect of watching this phenomenon. Being able to witness what will be for many, a once in a lifetime experience, is quite incredible. Being reminded of the vastness of our planet, and all the other celestial bodies that surrounds us, is humbling. Watching Mother Nature’s magnificence as a collective group of human beings, all gravitating towards the same phenomenon and sharing it in the same magical moment, allows us to feel a greater sense of connection to one another.

And then, despite the whole movement from partial eclipse to “normal” lasting for over two hours, the most awesome period as the sun and the moon aligned, almost as one, was brief. All of the hype and the panic and the preparation and the driving long distances to find the perfect place to watch, may have been worth it, but for many, over too quickly – as many magical moments are.

Just as you may remember where you were on other significant days in history, you too will likely remember where you were on April 8, 2024. For me, specifically at 3:18pm. I will remember it as a day on which I was reminded that there are many things that we don’t have control over, such as when the moon and the sun align, or when some darkness will fall. Also that, following periods of darkness, the light will shine again and how we manage the dark and the light, figure out risks and benefits, and act accordingly, is what we do have control over.