i write. i make up stuff. i adventure hard, so you don’t have to.




Published August 29, 2017 in Advice - 0 Comments

It took me completely by surprise. Rebecca and I made plans to drive three hours out of Colorado into the foothills of Wyoming to find a place where we could watch the total solar eclipse. It was a bucket-list item for both of us. I’ve been to six of the seven continents, seen the Grand Canyon and the Sahara Desert, Inca ruins in the Andes, Mayan pyramids in the Yucatan. My undergrad degree was in astronomy, and a total eclipse was something I didn’t want to miss.

We found an isolated reservoir, open water, sparse crowds compared to the traffic jams elsewhere on the path of totality. We set up our lawn chairs at the water’s edge, donned our eclipse glasses, and watched the bite being taken out of the sun, a perfect arc that grew larger and larger over the course of an hour and a half. Soon the sun was half gone, then just a crescent like a thin moon near the horizon at sunset.

But even a thin crescent of sunlight is still bright. Taking off the glasses, I could see what looked like a dim, overcast day. About a hundred other people were gathered around at the reservoir, eating picnic lunches, staring up at the diminishing sun, chattering and pointing. I was filled with anticipation.

The shadows around us were strangely razor sharp, and we played, holding out our hands, waggling our fingers. I found it an intriguing effect. Then as the last minute approached, the sky grew darker. We stared through our glasses as the thin arc of remaining sunlight vanished like a candle flame going out, swallowed up by the moon. In an instant everything changed.

We took off our glasses and stared at an ominous and terrifying black hole in the sky surrounded by a pearlescent whitish-blue glow. We could see solar flares peeping out from the surface of the sun. The other spectators around us cheered and whooped…and then strangely fell into an uneasy awed silence. I, Mr. Astronomy Degree, smiled at the celestial event and then felt a chill go down my spine. I could barely breathe. The temperature dropped fifteen degrees. The sky was dark and stars came out. The glow of orange twilight ringed the horizone in all directions, not just the east or west. The black hole remained overhead, as if swallowing up the universe.

The world was plunged into an eerie silence, holding its breath. I felt unsteady on my feet. I felt awed with the majesty of it. This wasn’t just a sight to see, but a profound experience. Even though I knew exactly what was happening, I felt like a primitive tribesman staring in terror. This was something entirely different from Niagara Falls or Mount Vesuvius. My entire body was covered with gooseflesh.

Then the two minutes were over and the sun reappeared with a flare that flooded light back into the sky, showing us that the world was right again. The people laughed and cheered, letting out a collective sigh of relief. Rebecca and I talked excitedly with each other, and my legs felt unsteady as we headed back to the car for the long, traffic-clogged drive home.