I’ve had a handful of people ask me about my experience with the eclipse. In all honesty, that’s kind of like asking me to describe a miracle.
Yesterday, I wrote my heart out right after totality ended to capture all the raw emotion I was feeling, and I’m so glad I did.
I also had a good night’s sleep to digest any lingering thoughts.
And then I wrote this article.
My experience was extremely deep, spiritual, and emotional. You’ve been warned.
I celebrated my 31st birthday on Saturday. In planning for my birthday a few weeks ago, I mentioned the fact that I’d like to go watch the eclipse somewhere in the totality zone.
I had no idea how difficult that would be.
After countless phone calls, my wonderful boyfriend secured a spot at Onondaga State Park. The last spot. Due to a cancellation.
We got super lucky.
Onondaga Cave State Park
We arrived on Sunday just in time for the last cave tour. Turns out, we were the only ones signed up for the 4:30 slot, so we got our own private tour.
The cave was epic, and our guide was great. He gave us a ton of time to take photos, answered all our questions, laughed at corny dad jokes (Mark), and shared a little bit about his life with us.
After the tour, we hung out at the campsite and cooked dinner.
I ate a pepper that was WAY too hot for me, and I hilariously (not to me) suffered for about 30 minutes. Blowtorch to the mouth. So hot. But that’s a different story for another day.
This state park had a lot of older, sweet couples occupying the grounds. We met so many of them.
They talked with us, gave the dogs pets and introduced us to their furry friends. In the morning, the couple next to us even made me some coffee and offered us cupcakes for my birthday.
We couldn’t have asked for a better place.
As 11:00 rolled around, we drove up to the beginning of the grounds near a small lake/pond. A handful of people were posted up with their tripods and cameras, including a few families and some Boy Scouts from Texas.
We got set up and started to admire the crescent-shaped shadows on the ground, picnic tables, everywhere.
It was at that point I realized my camera battery was almost dead. Bummer.
But here’s the thing, I was more worried about missing the moment than I was about capturing it on camera.
So when we were in totality and my first 3 shots weren’t on point, I bailed and soaked it up in person.
Worth every second.
I wasn’t at all mentally prepared for this and probably won’t be for the next solar eclipse. This was hands-down the most spectacular event I’ve ever witnessed.
There are no words to justify the brilliance of standing in totality. Because you not only see it, your body senses it. You feel it and hear it.
Totality is unlike anything you’ve ever known.
As Annie Dillard puts it, “Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying in an airplane does to falling out of an airplane. Although the one experience precedes the other, it in no way prepares you for it.”
As we stood there in half darkness, I heard a few people yell out the remaining time. The locusts and frogs sang louder and louder.
Almost there, I thought. Here we go…3. 2. 1.
Just like that, we fell into twilight. Sunset and sunrise on all sides made a beautiful orange and pink border of clouds. Darkness spread out, covering everything around us, and the atmosphere instantly cooled.
Looking up, it is not the sun nor the moon, but a new cosmic wonder. A metallic white ring of diamonds wrapped around a perfect crisp circle of darkness. Its white flares acted as angels’ wings bursting from within a sphere of nothingness. Stars lit up in the corners of the sky.
If I would’ve stumbled upon a solar eclipse with no context as to what it was, I would swear that trumpets would sound and Jesus would appear from the blackness.
Unable to stand still, I yelled, and with my jaw to the ground, let out some laughs from pure shock and utter amazement.
“What is happening right now?”
After a minute or so, tears started to roll down my face. Only to become a rushing waterfall.
Was it happiness? Sadness? Confusion? It was everything. My mind and heart could not clearly process the majesty before my eyes.
This was undeniably the most spectacular view of creation I’ve ever seen.
This solar eclipse showed us just how epic and beautiful life was created to be. Although we have limited understanding as human beings, we are gifted opportunities to participate in unworldly events.
My friend Matt describes the eclipse as “going back to the beginning of time.” And I think he’s right.
From my perspective, the beginning is the Creator, and through creation we live and thrive in a limited capacity.
Going back to the beginning is unthinkable and unfathomable. I’d never tried to imagine it before. Yet there we were, witnessing what seemed like the beginning of everything.
A Spiritual Experience
Everything I’d read prior to the eclipse warned about the possibility of a “religious experience” during totality.
Without a doubt, God was there. His spirit swept through the campgrounds like a wave of awe and total confusion. There was this feeling that I can’t explain.
Totality was an experience that made me question everything, yet gave me complete peace about all that life is and will be. We literally saw (and felt) a glimpse of heaven. While awake…in this human body…on this planet.
I’m beyond thankful, grateful, and blessed to be able to witness such an extraordinary display.
It may take me a little while to get over what I experienced during those 2 minutes. But I believe it’s safe for my mind to dwell on this miracle. It gives me hope for the future.
So now what?
Besides maybe painting my interpretation on canvas and buying some prints to hang on my walls, I know I can’t wait to witness the next solar eclipse in my hometown — Hot Springs, AR — April 8, 2024.
See you there?