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Thursday, August 24, 2017


Like millions of other people I watched the solar eclipse on Monday. I was fortunate enough to be in the path of the total eclipse in western North Carolina. The day began at 2:30 a.m. for me and three friends because we had a three hour drive to the path of totality and wanted to beat the heavy traffic that had been predicted.

Before we got in the car we all paused from our mountain top viewpoint and gazed with wonder at the clear night sky. The Milky Way, which most of us don't see too often, seemed so far away and yet we were looking at our own celestial home, our own galaxy, from within it.

As hoped for, our drive was clear sailing and uneventful. Along the way we passed many full motel parking lots. We arrived early at our destination of Cherokee/Bryson City in time to see both little mountain communities awaken to their big day as "totality" destinations.  Cars and campers were already gathering in roped off fields and parks. At breakfast in a local diner everybody was talking about "the blackout." By 10 a.m. the streets and sidewalks were becoming crowded. 

My friends and I had been invited to join one of their son's family at his in-law's place. It sits on a hillside between Cherokee and Bryson City with a clear view of the sky and overlooks a beautiful Blue Ridge vista - the perfect spot.
We spent the morning napping in the shade, tossing bean bags into corn holes, talking, and snacking on smoked chicken, slaw, and beans. Around 12:45 we passed out the "eclipse glasses" moved our chairs up the hillside and positioned ourselves for the show.

And what a show it was! As the moon slowly covered our star from "pacman" stage to tiny sliver the air turned cool and still. It stayed nearly full light up to the final tiny spot of sun and then we couldn't see it through our glasses.

The glasses came off to a chorus of "oooh's" and "ahaaa's" followed by moments of awe-filled silence. I won't even attempt to describe what I saw. Words sometimes fail. It was simply a minute and thirty-odd seconds of wonder and amazement in which I was reminded in a dramatic way of the complexity and fragility of our place in the immensity of the universe.

It is a miracle that any of it exist at all, much more that we have the opportunity to experience it. 

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