Maybe the best part of eclipse Monday was that for a few hours and 2½ spectacular moments we were reminded that we don’t control the big stuff in our day-to-day lives. It was a time for humility.
Scientists can describe sun, moon and Earth details; explain their relationships; and predict future solar and lunar eclipses. However, discussions about how things in the heavens and on Earth were designed and created in such specific ways — at once or over time — inevitably lead to a higher power, which is God for people of faith.
Watching the total eclipse in person or on a TV, laptop or phone screen should have convinced people who think the universe revolves around them that they are wrong. This important lesson probably didn’t register with or was ignored by those in the greatest need of it.
TIME writer Jeffrey Kluger compared the solar eclipse to “a sort of Woodstock writ large,” with both events coming at a time of turmoil and having the power to elevate Americans above the troubles, if only briefly. “Very much unlike Woodstock, it will be a celebration that knows no single region, subculture or demographic slice,” he added.
I was surprised to learn that total solar eclipses occur somewhere on Earth every 18 months. Most pass over unpopulated areas or water, which covers 70 percent of Earth’s surface.
At midday Monday, I was in a pickup at a Crane Trust prairie south of Alda. Trust researcher and volunteer coordinator Kelsey King and I each had a camera on a tripod in the bed of the truck and I had a second camera around my neck.
To the north, on the other side of a 6-foot tall fence, the trust’s genetically pure bison were napping. High above and to the south, the moon’s shadow was crossing the sun.
The changing light was interesting. Near totality, the yellow light across the prairie and bison was a reminder of why dusk and dawn are good times to photograph landscapes and wildlife.
The sunburst in the first few seconds after totality made me feel like I was in a giant spotlight. That was the spiritual moment for me, as if God was singling me out to say, “You are important.”
There were several “God moments” in the weeks ahead of the eclipse when I kept finding Bible verses and hymns with sun and/or moon themes. Song references included the second verse of “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”
“Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, sun moon and stars in their courses above join with all nature in manifold witness to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.”
The refrain of a late 1800s song, “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations,” includes, “For the darkness shall turn to the dawning and the dawning to noonday bright.”
I doubt that the hymn writers were influenced by eclipses.
Bible references to eclipse-like happenings include accounts of three hours of midday darkness when Jesus was crucified and prophesies about the sun becoming dark and moon blood red in the “last days.”
I like Psalm 74:16: The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon.
Many people who managed eclipse events, provided lodging and food for tourists, worked for newspapers and other media, or just didn’t care that much probably would say the Great American Eclipse hype was too much and lasted too long. Some may have said many times the past few months, “I’ll just be glad when it’s over.”
I was one of them, speaking from a work standpoint. I’m also very glad I got to see it.
Lori Potter is a Hub staff writer.