On August 21, 2017, the moon obscured 87% of the sun’s light in Richmond, Virginia. At the peak of the eclipse, what had been a bright blue sky became a muted, dull gray-blue, almost lavender. The clouds turned from crisp white to a subdued, creamy off-white. The air itself seemed to take on a color, that golden hue of sunsets. Little crescents of sunlight splashed the back of our house, blazed on the red hood of my car, danced on the lightly swaying hammock. The scene was so ethereal, so breathtaking, so singular, it brought tears to my eyes. So did the video my sister took, and shared with me a few hours after the eclipse.
My sister and her family, along with our parents, had gone to Greenville, South Carolina, to experience the total eclipse. In her video, people gather in a park. As the eclipse nears its peak, a shadow slowly creeps over the people in the park, and as near-total darkness envelopes them, they erupt in cheers and laughter and applause. Such beauty in the nature of it all. Such beauty in the science of it all. Such beauty in the unifying effect of the moment. Everyone gathered to share the experience. Everyone excited, awed—all together to witness history, science, precision, perfection. Both equally moving—the natural phenomenon and the social phenomenon. Mother nature, reminding us we are human, we are family, we are one—all in this together. All sharing this planet, all sharing this point in time, all sharing existence.
Later, I saw a news story on the eclipse. A woman told the reporter the eclipse was the most amazing thing she’d ever seen; she wished it could last forever. At first, I thought, “What a silly thing to wish, that the moon would forever hover in front of the sun—that we’d live in perpetual twilight.” After all, it’s the fleeting, other-worldly nature of the moment that lends it its novelty. But now I think I understand what she really meant. She wished the feeling of the moment, the atmosphere, would last forever. In these times of division and hatred and anger and polarization, she didn’t wish the actual eclipse would last forever; she wished for the permanence of the unity and the shared enthusiasm and the camaraderie it inspired. She wished for fear of the other to stop eclipsing love for each other. She wished for intolerance to stop blotting out acceptance, and leaving brotherliness in shadow. She wished for hate not to overshadow love and compassion.
I’d like to think that someday, she’ll get her wish—that the divisiveness, the ignorance, the self-righteousness, and the myopia that have so long eclipsed the sunlight of stewardship, of love, of true neighborliness, will pass, and reveal the warmth of the sun again. And surely, it must. After all, no eclipse has ever last forever.
Amanda Creasey lives with her husband and their two dogs. She teaches high school English and works as a freelance writer. Find her online at AmandaSueCreasey.com.