Not Total, Still Wonderful

I didn’t go blind.

I didn’t get raptured.

I didn’t travel farther than my own front yard.

But I did see the solar eclipse in most of its glory last Monday, despite naysayers’ predictions that middle Tennessee would be too cloudy for sky gazers to see much of anything. Even if the sun and moon were visible, we were reminded, this would be only a partial eclipse. Not totality like back in 2017.

I’d put my protective viewing glasses in a safe place after that eclipse was over, never dreaming they might have an expiration date. But when I grabbed those glasses on Monday and settled into a lawn chair on my deck shortly after 1:00, I took time to read the teeny-tiny user instructions on the inside of the right earpiece. “Discard and do not use after three years,” the last sentence said. Oops. Too late. I’d have to take my chances.

I positioned the flimsy cardboard around my ears and over my eyes. The only thing I saw was pitch-black darkness. OH NO, OH NO, OH NO. Maybe the glasses really had expired and I’d have to go back in the house and watch the eclipse on TV. But when I tilted my head a little more and looked up at a cloud that was only partially blocking the sun, something magical happened. There it was, shining as orange and bright as a University of Tennessee basketball jersey, with the dark circle of the moon just beginning its slow journey across from the lower right quadrant.


I lay back in my chair and pressed the glasses against my face with both hands so the brisk breeze wouldn’t blow them away. They were uncomfortable against the bridge of my nose, reminding me that the break from three months ago wasn’t quite healed. No matter. I’d try not to move from the chair or take the glasses off until the moon finished its journey around 3:00.

That plan was quickly abandoned. Heavy clouds rolled in from the west just as the mail carrier turned onto my street, so I took a quick break to retrieve what he left in the box and to refill my iced tea glass. Then it was back to watching and waiting and hoping. Be patient, I told myself. Be patient. Maybe the clouds will move. And you know what? In just a few minutes, they did. The sky turned blue. As the moon moved almost directly in front of the sun, the wind died down. The sky didn’t go dark, but it took on an eerie twilight glow. Every living creature, except the crows, grew still and quiet.

The moon continued its slow, steady journey toward the upper left quadrant of the sun, revealing more light with every moment that passed. Then the two celestial bodies parted and my little corner of the world returned to normal.

I removed the magic glasses and looked around. Just down the hill, City Lake sparkled in the sunlight. In front of me, a redbud tree, a white dogwood and a burgundy Japanese maple flaunted their colors. On either side of my driveway, the green, green lawn was alive with dandelions and wild violets and all manner of pollinators. Woodpeckers and jays and finches swarmed the birdfeeder. Hmmm, I thought. Maybe I’d been raptured after all. Because this surely must be what heaven looks like.

I stood up, headed inside and carefully placed the glasses in the basket where they’d been stored for the past seven years. The next total solar eclipse visible in North America won’t happen until August 2044, just a few months before my ninetieth birthday. Those glasses will almost certainly be expired by then. I may be, too.

But if I’m not, I hope to be stretched out in a lawn chair on my deck, watching the glorious moon make yet another wondrous journey across the sun.

(April 13, 2024)