Video of our eclipse experience below. But first... At the start of Thursday, August 17th, we had no plans for this weekend. By the en...

Total Eclipse .

Monday, August 21, 2017 , , , ,

Video of our eclipse experience below. But first...


At the start of Thursday, August 17th, we had no plans for this weekend. By the end of Thursday, August 17th, we'd planned an entire trip for 11 people and 3 dogs that involved travel in 4 states.

My sister wouldn't stop talking about the upcoming total eclipse on August 21, 2017. The first many mentions I sort of went, "Uh huh." But I didn't really give it much thought because here in Denver we could still see 92% of the eclipse. That's pretty good, eh?

But my sister wouldn't shut up about it, which piqued my curiosity. Next thing I know I've watched this Ted Talks titled, "You owe it to yourself to experience a total solar eclipse". Among other articles I read, I learned that a partial eclipse and seeing a TOTAL solar eclipse is like comparing apples to oranges. Except, seeing a total eclipse includes all the partiality, but then you get so, so much more.

I'm sorry, friends. If you watched the eclipse today, but only partially, you and I had an entirely different experience and take away. It's not the same. Read this amazing piece by Annie Dillard if you're up for it. It is long, but beautiful.

So yesterday we borrowed the RV and piled our family in and, followed by my parents and their dog, drove 4 hours northeast to Alliance, Nebraska. This was our choice of town, it was right next to the dead center of the line of totality. The line of totality is the only place you can see a total solar eclipse. Go outside that zone, and you're partial. Sorry, but that's just not the same experience. I didn't know until this week either. 

On Thursday, we had reserved an RV spot and a tent spot in the field belonging to St. John's Lutheran Church. We set up camp. My sister and her family had a much longer drive, from Santa Fe--about 10 hours--but she was the one who wanted this so bad. So there we all were, hoping there wouldn't be too many clouds in the morning. All piled into an RV and a tent with 11 hopeful people and three confused dogs.

We woke up in the morning to a lot of fog in the sky. It made us nervous, but people said it'd quickly burn off with the sun and it did. We sat around snacking and drinking and enjoying the company, watching the clouds, hoping they'd leave.

Then the eclipse started. We could use our eclipse glasses and see a tiny "bite" taken out of the sun. Here it comes! We were starting to get excited, but had to wait a good long hour and then some before totality.

Then, about 20-30 minutes away from totality, we started to noticed the temperature drop and the light changed. It is very difficult to say how the light and your surroundings look different. Hard to put words to it, but we said it looked like we were looking at film or a movie instead of real life. Shadows became extremely contrasted and sharp. The only time I've experienced something like this is when we have huge forest fires in the summer here in Colorado, and the smoke causes the light to be filtered in this strange way. I can tell if there's a fire just by looking at the light on the pavement outside my house. It's not exactly like that, but it's the only thing that compares.

The world around us was growing darker, but more vivid thanks to the contrast, and it felt like dusk but there was no sunset.

When we hit about 2 minutes to totality, all of the above became even more dramatic. It was chilly, dark, and strange out, but you still couldn't look at the sun without eclipse glasses, it was as intense as always!

Very suddenly it's not dusk anymore, it's twilight, or even night if it weren't for the 360 degree sunset {yes, the whole horizon has a sunset}. I watched for the shadow from the northeast but I didn't catch it. People were hooting, howling, and cheering. I knew it was time, finally safe to look without my glasses so I turned to see what I expected to see because I've seen so many photos lately of what total solar eclipses look like.

Yes, I'd expected to see what I saw. How is it possible that I was expecting to see this, but it still took my breath away? I hate the sound of my own voice, but in the video below you can hear me exclaim, "Oh my GOSH!" and it is quite genuine. Just know that. I was moonstruck. 

I have seen a million skies. But I had never seen this sky. With logic and reason I understood that I was watching a total solar eclipse in real life, but what I was seeing still made no sense to my eyes. An inky black hole where there shouldn't be one, with wisps of silvery hairs forming a wreath around it. At the cusp of the black hole were sparkling stars shimmering. It was otherworldly.

It was not what we know is the sun. It was not what we know is the moon. It was completely foreign in our sky. The sun and moon had cooperated for once to show us something glorious. I felt like I saw something sacred. Six buses of Sioux kids and their chaperones had joined us shortly before the eclipse. They were chanting something pretty in their Native American tongue that made the moment even more surreal.

A pink star formed on the side where the first "bite" had been taken out of the sun, and we knew this brief moment--all of two minutes and thirty seconds--was all we would get of this most beautiful sight. This thing that was both sun and moon and also neither of those things, you want to beg it not to leave. Frustratingly, cameras don't capture it as large and lustrous as it is in real life. Cheers and howling resumed as the totality ended. We didn't want it to end. Ever.

But I suppose if this were something I got to see all the time, it might not have been as gorgeous. I have seen thousands of pretty sunsets and tens of shooting stars. I've seen blood moons and full moons rising bloated and yellow over the eastern horizon. I have viewed the sun through a telescope, and have been fascinated by coronal mass ejections. {I'm a big fan of the cosmic stuff, actually.} But I had never seen this sky until today.

I realized I'd just crossed something off my bucket list that I hadn't realized was written on there. Because I don't usually put science fiction experiences on my bucket list. 

Now, if you know me then you know I've very effusive like my mom. Not everyone reacts with the same gusto. Like my husband, who said, "That was cool." And that's about it. But all reactions are valid. Effusive or not. But if I've even made you second guess how you spent August 21, 2017 even just a little...then please start making plans for 2024 right now. 

Now I'll share this video of our eclipse watching moment.

A few notes:

1. It was much darker in real life than my smart phone camera shows. My camera--as you'll hear me start to say in the video but not finish--"does a good job" of adjusting to the dark lighting. 

2. My family can be heard yelling things like, "get him off the car!" and "yes!! NOW is the time to look!!! LOOK!!!" and such. Don't be alarmed. That's just how we are. We're not angry people. We're just loud.

3. My camera is first faced northwest because I was hoping to see/catch the shadow that moves 1450mph over the earth. You can see it best on a hill, and it happens in a flash at the moment totality occurs, and it sometimes makes people scream if they see it.

This video was also taken by the news in Alliance, Nebraska. Yes, we did visit Carhenge on our way out of town. But this video does a better job of showing how dark it gets. 

Was it worth it? Was it worth the last minute scramble to get to Nebraska with 11 people? Yes. It was worth the 4 hour drive there and the 8 hour drive back through Wyoming. I could also wax spiritual about how God hung the moon and the sun and set them on this schedule and how blessed I feel to have laid eyes on this solar phenomenon before I die. 

The sunset over the Rocky Mountains on our {long stop-and-go} drive home was pretty lovely too though. 

sunsetaug212017 Cheers,

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