On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse that washed across a thin band of the United States. A wider band spread across additional parts of the country that enabled many, even those absent of the totality path, to experience the phenomenon.

Did you catch a glimpse of the eclipse? Were you awed by the natural occurrence of two planets perfectly aligning?

I did. And while I was amazed at what I saw high in the sky, it’s what I saw on the ground that warmed my heart.

I experienced a partial eclipse in Southern California at a local park. It was there I saw humans gathered for no other reason except to observe a naturally occurring phenomenon; no electricity needed. We were outside, entertained by something that in reality is super technical, but on the surface, so simple…two planets aligning.

Lessons from the Eclipse

We are in an age where technology gets us closer and enhances our experience. We have smartphone screens, 70-inch big screens, Omnimax theaters, cameras everywhere, live streaming, pay per view and social media.

But the best way to view this show was with a pair of 10-cent, made-out-of-paper sunglasses.

Others used a piece of paper with a pinhole punched through it, or a box with a similar sized hole. Creatively, people grabbed a kitchen utensil such as a colander, held it toward the light and had a bath of crescent-shaped images projecting on the ground. Even trees got in on the action, as sunlight passed through its leaves and created a truly homemade — mother nature made — eclipse viewing instrument.

Sure there was the NASA live stream for those unable to venture outside; some even hauled out their super high-powered binoculars and telescopes. But for the most part, where I was, it was adults and children gathered together in a park looking up. Loaning their glasses to one another and sharing their homemade concoctions.

Aside from “checking in” on social media platforms, most put their phones away. Taking a picture of the eclipse, especially with a camera phone was practically impossible (I tried). We were spared the throngs of people placing a screen between them and the moment they were attempting to be “in.”

There always seems to be this push to get people outside. From our mom’s pleading with us to “go play outside,” to REI encouraging its customers to “opt outside,” or John Muir’s famous quote “the mountains are calling and I must go.”

And despite all of that advice, we find ourselves in front of screens, big and small. We’re holding onto devices, instead of moments in time.

Finding Common Ground Outside

That’s the thing about this eclipse. To fully enjoy it, you had to go outside. For those few hours that day, I saw neighbors sitting in lawn chairs in their driveway, businesses pausing for a few minutes to allow their employees to venture out.

Afterwards, I saw friends sharing photos from cities where they lived and were experiencing totality. Further, I found out about other friends who drove hours just to witness totality.

It was also an event that seemed to be without controversy. There were no marches for or against the eclipse. No protests, no chants from one side saying they were better than the other. Everyone was in awe. Collectively, as humans, we accepted that this was pretty cool.

On this day, we enjoyed each other’s company; loaned glasses to those that didn’t have them, showed off our homemade cereal box eclipse viewing creations and shared with others our binoculars and telescopes.

The excitement around the eclipse showed that if we can find common ground on one thing, it might lead to harmony in other areas.

And all of this for two planets getting in each other’s way for a few minutes.

Photo by Russ Ward on Unsplash
On August 21, 2017, Americans stopped what they were doing, went outside, and looked at the sky. Standing in awe we learned a few lessons from the eclipse.