When Luna was eclipsing Sol a few weeks back, I was sitting in a plastic chair on the deck of my cousin’s house in Nebraska drinking beer and looking out over a field of prairie grass. I was totally psyched for a religious experience or at least a spiritual buzz. It didn’t happen. Some of this had to do with Pink Floyd’s gloomy “Dark Side of the Moon” playing in the background. Why that record has enduring appeal is more baffling to me than any old eclipse.
Grace Cathedral also played a part in this. You know those moments when the cathedral is gradually obscured by fog? The soaring space grows dim and the stained glass windows fade to embers. Then the fog passes by, the sun breaks through, and the windows are ignited with beauty and light. It’s an awesome sight. A total eclipse is an awesome play of darkness and light too, but we don’t worship our windows and I can’t imagine what it would be like to pray to the sun.
An eclipse does bring to mind images of cosmic forces in opposition: dark and light, good and evil, triumph and defeat. Still, it seems to me that the sun and moon are merely splendidly coexistent. An eclipse is a beautiful coincidence, not a sign. Doesn’t one of the Psalms say that the heavens forever declare the firmament and the sky above proclaims his handwork? We just have to remember to look up.
Meanwhile back on the deck in Nebraska, the shadow over the prairie accelerated in the final seconds before totality. A wind blew across the grass and the meadowlarks flew in a mad spiral. Someone remembered to turn off the music and we lifted our eyes in silence. After a minute or so, the whole thing happened in reverse. The miniature night gave way to a shallow dawn. The meadowlarks went back to their usual business. Now we have to remember to look up.