We were part of a cheering crowd. On the day of the eclipse, we gathered with several hundred others at a city park. Some folks lined up to look through a telescope as the moon slipped slowly across the face of the sun. Others just watched through their eclipse glasses, sitting on lawn chairs, park benches, or the ground.
At first, it seemed that only a small bite had been taken out of the sun’s disk. Then that bite grew larger and larger, until only a “crescent sun” could be seen hanging in the sky. Finally, just before noon, the moment arrived: As the moon slid fully in front of the sun, leaving just the “ring of fire” visible all around the moon, the crowd cheered and applauded.
It was thrilling to see that eclipse. It was stunning to see the sun transformed right before our carefully-shielded eyes. And yet, I asked myself: Why were we applauding? The moon was simply following its orbit, as it does day after day. The earth was turning on its axis. Nothing new there. The sun was in its usual place at midday in October.
We live in a world of wonders, wonders that we often take for granted. Yes, the eclipse was special. But shouldn’t we be applauding every day when the sun rises to light our world? Cheering each night when the moon crosses the heavens? The late poet Mary Oliver, after listing life’s “multiplicity of forms” from foxes to water lilies, writes, “It must be a great disappointment / to God if we are not dazzled at least ten / times a day.”*
Dazzled I was, on the day of the eclipse. Dazzled I should be, each and every day. As Oliver suggests in the same poem, we should live
With gratitude for the grace of the earth.
The expected and the exception, both.
For all the hours [we] have been given to
be in this world.
-- by Bill
*“Good Morning,” pp. 21-23, in Blue Horses (Penguin Books, 2014).