The family just returned from a seven-state, 2400 mile vacation. We visited with friends and family and had a front row seat for the solar eclipse that captivated the nation.
I have been searching for the right word to describe the experience. We went to the Nashville Zoo with about 7,000 others who sat in the field amidst the animal enclosures to both watch the sky and see how the animals reacted. I was more interested in how my children would react.
In the hour or so leading up to the eclipse, we sat in the field and sweated. I had forgotten about the humidity and, as the temperatures neared 100 degrees, the children started to complain. To be honest, so did I.
Then, it started. We donned our glasses and stared at the sky. It’s exciting, exhilerating, and, well, let’s face it, you just can’t stare at the sky for that long in heat like that. So it was a little bit of staring, a little waiting in line for food, a little wandering around to see the animals, and a rush back to the field for the final countdown.
As we neared totality, the family lay on the ground together. At some point, as the sky overhead darkened, it became important for the children to be touching each other – and their parents. Holding hands, we lay on our backs in the field and waited.
It got darker. The sliver of the sun peaking out behind the moon became smaller and smaller. The field sizzled with anticipation. People grew silent.
Then it happened. The sun was gone, leaving only a ring of fire peaking out.
And the place went nuts.
Cheering. Yelling. Crying. Jumping up and down. As if we had somehow made it happen, willed it to happen, wished it to happen.
The more I think back to the sight of the children’s enthusiasm and excitment, the more I struggle for the right word.
I think it was joy.
I think it was that feeling where you forget everything else – the email, the phone calls, the chores, the back to school shopping, the bills, the mess you left at home – everything – and you just are. You just enjoy the love of the people you are with and you are overwhelmed with how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things.
It is an amazing moment as a parent when you realize the center of your life is outside yourself.
Joy. We tasted divinity for a minute and a half and then the glasses went back on and the crowds started to disperse. It felt almost disrespectful because the sun and the moon hadn’t finished their dance. But there were animals to see and shadows to investigate.
But the joy carried us through the day and night and into the next day…and I pray we can continue to capture what we experienced in that field on that very hot August afternoon.
P.S. Liam shot this photo!