Monday morning, 6:30 a.m. My husband rolls over and shakes me awake. I’d been half-dozing probably since 4:30, so I respond immediately, turning to kiss him good morning. It’s Eclipse Day, I think.
We’d only known we were going to take a road trip to Hopkinsville, KY since the Thursday of the week prior, when my husband’s school district where he works as a kindergarten teacher announced they would be closed for the eclipse. Apparently, the message got through that taking a bunch of little ones outside and expecting them all to keep their eclipse glasses on was a bad idea.
We clamber zombie-like out of bed and stumble through our morning routine: prayers, showers, breakfast, and frantic last-minute packing. My travel anxiety kicking in, I make several prayers for safe travels as we prepare to leave. Finally, Google Maps directions in hand, pre-paid parking pass and eclipse glasses stowed safely in my bag, and our lunch snug inside our cooler, we head out the door for the 3.5-hour trip.
What awaited us in a little farm town just outside of Hopkinsville was nothing short of amazing, stressful, infuriating, and exhausting. And we both agree, we’d do it all over again.
So, the bad news first, because there were several times we second-guessed our choice to make the trip. While traffic going TO the eclipse went along at a pretty steady clip, the 12-hour nightmare we endured trying to get home was the worst traffic I’ve ever experienced in my life. Kentucky, much less Hopkinsville, is not built to sustain the amount of traffic it accommodated on Monday. At one point, it took us 3 or 4 hours to travel a 12-mile stretch of parkway, where my guess is that everyone needed access to the major north-south interstate right off of the parkway. It wasn’t so easy to justify the trip when we were still at least a couple hours from home at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Not only was the traffic coming home horrific, but we also had to endure the worst heat indexes of the summer thus far, out in the middle of an open grassy field at midday. My 37-week pregnant self was forced to stand in a 25-minute line for the portable bathrooms on site, with no hair tie to pull up my ridiculously thick, dark hair, and then go into said portable bathroom, where the temperature was at least 10 degrees hotter than it was outside. And it already felt like over 100 degrees, according to my phone’s weather app.
But. BUT. The bathroom and the heat having been endured, the eclipse began. We trekked back to our car and fashioned a makeshift shade out of our trunk, an umbrella, and an old blanket. Once I sat down in the shade and drank a full bottle of water in about 10 minutes, I felt much better. I even managed to eat an apple and a few chips, despite the heat stealing my appetite. Every 10 or 15 minutes, we’d check the progress of the eclipse. A Pacman-like sun became a thumbnail, then a thick crescent. The temperature subtly dropped, and colors began to look washed out, like the beginning of evening.
About 10 minutes before the eclipse, excitement made the air tingle. People began moving around more, trying to get into the best position to watch. It was now the same temperature in the sun as it was in the shade, perhaps even cooler since we could feel some gentle breezes moving over the sun-baked grass.
My husband and I watched the remaining sliver of the sun slim down.
“It’s getting so close.” The awe in my husband’s voice made me smile.
We lost all track of time. Everyone’s gazes were on the disappearing sun.
And suddenly, it was gone.
Someone whistled. Someone else gave a yell of excitement. I hopped up and down and whipped off my glasses, staring at the glimmering crown surrounding the moon’s shadow.
“Oh, my gosh, honey, look. It’s like twilight!”
I tore my eyes from the sun and glanced around. Cicadas chirped their nighttime songs. The sun’s corona painted the clouds pink and orange, just like at sunset. And when I looked back up, Venus twinkled from the deep purple sky.
Tears welled in my throat, but I held them down as best I could. If I let myself cry now, I’d blur my vision. And I didn’t want to miss a single second of this.
My husband put his arm around my waist and kissed me.
“Let’s not miss the diamond ring!” I said, gazing back up at the sun. Little specks of sunlight were beginning to find their way through the moon’s valleys. I knew it had to be close.
And just as suddenly as it disappeared, the sun made its entrance with a flash, an orb of golden light at the point where the moon’s shadow moved just enough to let it through, and the corona still remaining, getting thinner, at the opposite end.
Cheers went up throughout the field. I urged my husband, who was still staring at the rapidly re-appearing sun, to put his glasses back on. Glancing around, it was like daylight again, though dim and washed out like before.
My husband looked at me and grinned, breathless. “It was worth it, wasn’t it?”
All I could do was nod.
Later, sitting exhausted and fed-up from the traffic in a small-town diner, I watched the eclipse play out in city after city on the news. Each time I saw the blinding flash of totality, even on the screen, all I could do was smile.
My husband followed my line of vision and smiled with me.
“We have to go to the next one,” he said. “And next time, we’ll get to take our kid.”
I rubbed my belly and nodded. Even late that night, while I tried not to scream at the traffic keeping us from our home and bed, I knew I’d do it all over again.
Sure, we’d make better plans next time, like booking a hotel so we wouldn’t have to fight the traffic the night of. But experiencing a total eclipse was like nothing else I’d ever done. It brought out the most basic, childlike wonder in me, an awe of God’s handiwork and creativity. And it was a reminder that beautiful things can happen, even at the darkest moments of our lives.
Did you watch the eclipse? What did you experience? Did it fuel your creativity? Let me know in the comments below–I’d love to chat!
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you next post!