To stand in darkness in the middle of the day

(Unsplash/Jagyasini Malakar)

A total solar eclipse is coming to my state of Missouri August 21. Eclipses happen two to five times a year, but mostly over oceans and deserts and mountains, and total solar eclipses only occur about every 18 months. This one cuts a swath across Kentucky, Illinois and the midsection of Missouri, from St. Louis to Kansas City. People are coming from around the world to see it. The Illinois Southern University stadium at Carbondale is sold out for the spectacle. Totality there will last the full 2 minutes and 41 seconds plus a fraction.

I only learned two weeks ago that the eclipse is coming. A friend has nine pairs of special glasses and suggested we have a viewing party. St. Louis will darken, but the center line of darkness is about 30 miles south at 1:15 p.m. So a friend and I drove yesterday to De Soto, which is right on that line. De Soto will also have the full 2 minutes and 41 seconds of darkness.

But De Soto isn't prepared yet. The proprietor of the Arlington Event Center there, who was hosting a baby shower, said she'd had only two calls, and there had been one local meeting. But she'd heard it would be a big deal. She and her husband have decided they will open their hotel rooms and serve food. Probably the town will host a crafts fair.

I told her I'd heard that the eclipse changes people's lives. Everything stops. People dance. I didn't go on and on, but I've heard that awe, fear, delight and dread fill the spectators, from that desire to dance to an impulse to hide in the basement. All of a sudden I've become an eclipse fan.

I've got a vegetable garden planted and my orange lilies are blooming in front of the house, but mostly I live pretty far from nature. I love the long days of summer, but I've never lived where I can see the stars. I don't pay much attention to weather reports because my plans for the day were made a while ago and weather bad enough to interfere is rare.

Yet somehow, I'm all in for this eclipse. I'm urging our small group to go to De Soto and stand on Main Street with hundreds or maybe even thousands of other visitors for three minutes of celestial display. Then we'll go to the crafts fair and maybe have a late lunch at the local fire department or men's club fundraiser. I don't expect my life to be changed. What I want is to remind myself that I'm part of a whole that's so much bigger than I can grasp.

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