Why now? Well, why not?
The hype around the eclipse seen in North America Monday, August 21, seemed unreal. My local go-to for weather tweeted about it constantly. The entire Eastern U.S. seemed to have driven south for it, based on our experience on I-81 headed back north that night. I learned that the Waze app allows comments; reading them at 1:30 a.m. was its own special experience.
And then it was Tuesday.
Social media sucks us into events only to let them breeze by in the periphery immediately afterward. So I’m going to backtrack and revisit the eclipse.
We were lucky enough to be able to travel to the Great Smokies, a trip we planned early in the spring. My better half wanted to go, and it would be a chance for us to take our one-year-old on her first camping trip. That, and we like to get to at least one major national park a year. We wondered how similar to Shenandoah, a park we’re much more familiar with, the Smokies would feel. We usually plan our vacations around hiking, but for our first trip to this park, we opted for finding a campsite in the band of totality that also allowed easy access to amenities (read: milk and ice) for our toddler.
You see, several paragraphs into a post on the eclipse, and I’ve hardly mentioned it at all. And that’s the point. The biggest takeaway from this event was, for me, to pay attention to the periphery, not necessarily what seems to be most central right in front of you. That doesn’t mean not to look ahead; after all, there’s no sense running directly into traffic, say. But the edges matter too.
The Smokies were, as my high school students would say, “similar but different” when compared with Shenandoah. We hiked, but weren’t there for the hikes; we cooked over our small stove, but it didn’t matter so much what we were eating; we watched the eclipse, but there was more to it than the moon passing in front of the sun.
If I were to watch another eclipse, I think I’d skip the glasses, or maybe just share with a family member. Everything else was more interesting: the atmosphere; the slow move toward darkness; the temperature drop; the shadows.
If you want to read more about the science behind the eclipse, or what it was like to travel for it, or how crowded some locales were, there are plenty of sources for that. I’d like instead to invite you to look around, not always forward, and notice the rest of the environment besides that which is before you.
And so I’ll leave you with the shadows, the crescent slivers on the ground that were at least as captivating as the main attraction.