by Laurie Gudim
After Monday I can see why there is such a thing as a solar eclipse junkie.
A group of people from Rosean’s and my churches traveled to Wyoming that day to see the eclipse in its totality. Hundreds of thousands of other Coloradoans had made a similar pilgrimage. There was traffic, lots of traffic, but because many people were ahead of us by hours, even days, we arrived at Glendo, our destination, only one and a half hours later that we ordinarily would have.
We set up folding chairs and coolers and arranged our eclipse glasses and our pin-hole viewers. Then we shared snacks and stories, creating our pilgrimage community.
After awhile the eclipse began. Dragon eating the sun, the ancient Chinese called it, and they would bang pots and shout to scare the monster away. To our Twenty-first Century minds it was fascinating but not particularly scary. It was like watching a blinding-bright moon going through all its phases in a very sort period of time.
But then the sky began to get deeper blue, and the breeze grew a little colder. Spontaneously we stood up so that we could see in all directions. Darkness descended rapidly, until we were standing in a night world. The vast Wyoming horizon was edged, all 360 degrees of it, in the orange light of twilight. Then Rosean called out to me, “Look up, Laurie, look up.” And there it was, the corona of the sun.
I have read dozens of descriptions of this moment of totality. None captures the awe I felt when I saw our star occluded, a disc surrounded by an eerie luminescence. It was white – bluish white – purplish, bluish white – a unnatural, unearthly color – and dumbfounding, breath stopping. I couldn’t take my eyes away until finally I had to.
The tens of thousands of people with us in Glendo cheered twice, once when the moon completely shadowed the sun and again when the sun began to emerge. The clamor was loud – celebratory – a many-throated, gutteral acclaim. From the testimony of eclipse-goers in other places, this response seems to have happened everywhere. People cheered. We could not help but cheer.
It took us eleven hours to drive home. Traffic was gridlocked, both on the freeway and on secondary roads. But at a rest stop near the end of our journey the women standing in line to use the bathroom could only all agree, “It was worth it. That two minutes and thirty seconds was worth it.” I am with them.
People came in droves, across great distances, with great effort, to be awed – and they were. And their praise poured out of them in an inarticulate thunder. And I can not help but think that what they were cheering was not so much the creation as the Creator. They were shouting out the wonder of God’s creativity and beauty. For this is what we were formed for, to praise God. This is what we were fashioned to do. And even those of us who no longer know the words will search out the opportunities. We will pilgrimage to find those moments and those places where we can raise a loud shout of praise. We will celebrate the Holy One who made us.
Behold now, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
you that stand by night in the house of the Lord.
Lift up your hands in the holy place and bless the Lord;
the Lord who made heaven and earth bless you out of Zion.
Laurie Gudim works is a religious iconographer and writer in Fort Collins, Colorado. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.She has recently published her novel, Loving the Six-Toed Jesus, available from Amazon.
Image: by Michael Trujillo Dubois, WY