People say you should not miss it. Drop everything. Prepare to travel. Watch the weather. Go as far as you must and mind the time carefully. It only lasts two minutes in any given place. Whatever you do, do not miss this chance to be in the Path of Totality when the total solar eclipse will cross the United States from coast to coast on August 21.
Here in Minnesota, we are not in the Path of Totality; still, the eclipse will block out 85 percent of the sun’s rays. This sounds dramatic enough. With the right eyewear, it too could be an event not to be missed.
But we have been assured, 85 percent is next to nothing. According to those who know, two steps out of the Path of Totality is nothing like the experience of being two steps in. Like standing outside the stadium as the World Series ends with a triple hitter. You don’t want to miss it, people say. It will change you. Forever.
Where will you be on August 21? In the Path of Totality – a name begging to be capitalized even as I resist the urge to join it – about to be changed forever? Will you travel or will you stay where you are? If you’re not in the Path of Totality, will you don cardboard glasses and wander outside to peer at the darkening sky or perhaps stay inside under the glow of electrical lighting, where for any number of other reasons you could also be forever changed? (Clue: There is no right answer; nor any wrong answer.)
A soft spoken man at a Quaker’s picnic tells us he remembers experiencing an eclipse years ago, being outside the Path of Totality and looking down. There on the ground, in the shade of the tree overhead, dozens of tiny crescent moons appeared around his feet, curled shadows slicing the light into little arcs all piled up on one another. Up and down traded places. And wonder opened up right there under the tree, in the darkness, incomplete as it was on the partial path beneath his feet.
We, sitting on a blanket in a city park listening two weeks before the anticipated eclipse, are quieted by his story. Birds sing overhead. The blue sky shines. A white squirrel runs across the grass, crossing paths with a black one and a red one. The food spread across the blanket boasts of the August harvest.
So much not to be missed, in the heavens and on earth beneath our feet.
Where will you be on August 21, and where will you look? Where are you now, reading this, and what, that is near you, is not to be missed? If you wish to write from a prompt, begin with these words and follow wherever they lead:
What is not to be missed is this. . . . .