August 21, 2017

There are really no words to describe the feeling I had seeing the Eclipse today.  I could try to throw out words with empty meaning like “fantastic”, or “magical”, but they seem to fall flat when I think back and recall how I actually felt.

Holly and I had decided early on that we wanted our kids to experience the Eclipse with us; all-together, as a family. When the school system announced that the absence would be excused, that only solidified that we had made the correct choice. We were originally going to head to the Vanderbilt campus to watch the big event, but after finding out the festivities there were faculty/staff/students only, we knew we needed an alternative.

We settled on (at the last minute) going to Stones River Battlefield in Murfreesboro. Since Franklin was juuuuuust outside of the totality area, our options were to head north (into Nashville), or East (to Murfreesboro). We chose the latter. We would find out later we had made the best choice.

We left early, and got to the park expecting crowds. There were handfuls of people, but we basically had our pick of both parking and a place to pitch our blanket. The day went on, lunch was served, the kids were much happier, and we waited.

Right around 12 noon, you could start to see the Eclipse happen, even if there wasn’t anything “visible” to show it.

I recently swapped to a Samsung Galaxy S8, and the default camera has “pro” modes that let you digitally set typical camera settings: aperture, ISO values, shutter speed, and the like.  I adjusted a few settings, put my camera lens behind the special solar glasses, and… got a photo like the one above.

As the day went on, you could see the surroundings begin to change. There was slight cloud cover, but even when the clouds would break you could tell that the sky was darkening around us, even if it was just slightly.  It was around 90% totality where it started to look like an “eternal sunset”. The shadows of the leaves mirrored the eclipse: crescent shapes cut into the light as you looked at the ground.

Franklin hit 99.98% totality, which means that it never truly got dark enough to remove the glasses. People asked me: was it worth it to drive over to Murfreesboro to see the full totality?

Yes. Absolutely yes.

At 100% totality, the sky was as dark as night. The crickets, asleep in the heat of the day, began to chirp their normal evening songs.  It was only a minute, but it was long enough for bats to wake up and fly around.  We saw fireflies lighting up the darkened sky.  The temperature dropped (officially, somewhere around 7-8 degrees). Any animals nearby bedded down where they stood, knowing that something was off, but not being able to really figure out what it was.

A look up revealed the featured image on this post: a darkened sky with a vivid ring around the void, and an eerily quiet world all gazing upward in wonder. People in other parts of the country mentioned being able to see certain stars that were only visible during the eclipse – mainly due to the light pollution the sun emits on a daily basis.

And, in a moment (around 57 seconds, specifically) the light begun to return. We donned our solar glasses and saw once again the world returning to its normal state. Around 3pm, the final part of the moon slid away from the sun.

I remember looking at Holly and seeing the same look that was in my eyes: utter amazement. To think that, for a brief moment, the sun, moon, and earth would align in perfect unison to allow a glimpse of the miraculous.

People drove hours (some even flew in) to see the Eclipse in its totality.  I can see why now.

And I’ve already begun making plans for the 2024 Eclipse in its totality – which will pass over Carbondale, IL – a mere 90 minutes from my childhood home.

The images you see, the videos you watch only show a small picture of what it was really like to be there experiencing it. To hear the animals react, to feel the temperature shift… there’s no words still I can come up with that will describe those feelings completely.