When my husband first told me he wanted to view the eclipse on Aug. 21, which would involve traveling an hour or so away, I wasn’t all that excited. He has always had an interest in astronomy and has even bought and sold a few telescopes on Ebay. I always figured I could see much more detailed photos of the stars and planets online. Plus the eclipse day was my birthday – a milestone birthday.
But – this event meant a lot to my husband. And it was a “once in a lifetime” event. So plans were made.
The closer we got to event day, the more concerned I became about traffic, bathroom facilities, crowdedness, etc. Jim originally wanted to go to Sweetwater, but the news made it sound like that was a prime area that would be overrun.
We decided to try to get to Maryville a little before lunchtime. We took a picnic lunch (Mittu made some great wraps, orange slices, carrot sticks, and cookies and we contributed chips and drinks) since we didn’t know where we would end up and what eating places would be nearby. Our goal was to go to the park by the library there. We ended up in a grassy area next to a government building (I forget what it was) by the library. We saw a few cars and people there and pulled in — and someone came out from the building telling us we couldn’t park there. BUT, she didn’t say we couldn’t park on the property, just that spot, and she very nicely directed us under the (shaded!) awning of the drive-through lanes they weren’t using. That was just a few steps away from a large grassy spot. A few people were set up there and on the library grounds, but it wasn’t crowded. Jim and the boys set up the canopy, a table, lawn chairs, and…a telescope and screen. 🙂
Jason accompanied Mittu and me to the library to see if we could use the restroom there. I didn’t really think they would let us – but they did! Jim had brought a portable camping potty just in case, but we were glad to have access to an inside, nicely kept up bathroom.
I was very pleasantly surprised that, at least in our experience, all the businesses and employees we encountered were very welcoming and accommodating, deciding to roll with the situation rather than trying to keep non-customers away.
We had a couple of hours to wait after eating, and the grassy areas filled in, but were never uncomfortably crowded. Several people stopped by to look at Jim’s microscope set-up and even asked to take pictures of it. I took pictures at intervals until “totality” – here are just a few:
Mittu made Timothy an expanded set of eclipse glasses, using one of the ones we bought and gluing it to a paper plate.
At one point clouds covered the sun for several minutes, and people cheered when they moved away.
Of course, the 15-20 minutes before the total eclipse were the most dramatic. As it started getting darker bit by bit (someone said as if by a dimmer), we noticed it was a different kind of darkness – no sunset colors. And around the horizon looked light, with the darkness above. As it got “nighttime dark,” the cicadas started chirping and other stars were visible. People cheered and oohed and aahed. I tried to get a photo of the dark circle of the moon with the white ring of the sun around it, but in the photo it just looked white.
And then, as the process started to reverse, people started packing up to go. Jim’s traffic app helped direct us back ways that were a little less crowded, and we got home hot and tired and got pizza for dinner.
I had wondered about the “once in a lifetime” part of it since the next one is due in 2024 and the last eclipse was in 1979 – which was still in my lifetime! But I looked that one up, and apparently it was only visible in the US in the Northwest – I’m not sure about other countries. So maybe “once in a lifetime” doesn’t mean only one total eclipse occurs every 70 or so years, but it only occurs in a particular location in that time frame.
In a few other interesting eclipse articles:
Jason filmed Jim’s screen and then put a time-lapse video together. They had to move the screen and telescope a few times to accommodate the sun’s progression, and the time it went blank was during the cloud cover.
So in the long run I was glad I had gone. It was neat to actually be a part of the experience, both with my family and even with total strangers. The day could not have gone better, and all the issues I was concerned about turned out to be wonderfully taken care of.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.