I didn’t get it.
Everyone was talking about it. People were going out of town to watch it. The local school district where my husband teaches was even passing out glasses so every student could see it.
But what was the big deal? So the moon was passing in front of the sun. The entire experience was only going to last a few minutes. Here in California, I wasn’t even sure the sky was going to get much darker. It might look like a cloudy day, or it could be a cloudy day. The whole thing seemed about as interesting as a crescent shadow appearing through a pin hole.
But, by Monday morning, I’d heard enough about it to at least be curious. So at 9:45 I stepped away from my desk and went into the backyard.
I sat on the grass with our elderly cat, who was ecstatic to have a mid-morning pet session. The dog wandered around with a ball in his mouth, mildly concerned about the change in our routine but still happy we were outside.
And then it happened: the crescent shadow appeared, the breeze picked up, the light dimmed, the greens got greener, the cat purred. People everywhere were paying attention. And I sighed. “Okay, I get it,” I thought.
After it was all over and the sun was shining bright, I went back inside and turned on the radio. NPR was frantically chasing down interviews along the path of totality as if they couldn’t squeeze enough good news (finally!) into their two hours of special coverage.
At each stop along the way, a reporter would ask a local, “What do you see now? And now?” And the local would talk about the people nearby, or their dark glasses, or the clouds in the way. And then, all of a sudden, they would stop talking… and all you could hear was a collective sigh from the crowd.
Next up, author Ron Rash read his poem about the eclipse. While introducing it, he said, “One aspect of life that disturbs me is that we rarely use wonder as a noun. And I think we need to.”
Wonder is a lot like peace and joy and love, those other higher states that we often chase after without really knowing what they mean. If we’re worried or stressed or distracted or busy, wonder doesn’t even seem like a real, attainable thing. It seems like fairy dust and make believe and, honestly, don’t we all have better ways to spend our time?
But we can choose to line up with wonder, we can choose to put ourselves in its path. And while we’re in that process of choosing, of staying open and paying attention, that’s when it comes. We remember that we’re all connected to each other, to this little planet, and even to some cosmic order. We remember wonder as a noun… and we can all take a collective sigh.