The recently mown grass prickled my skin as I lie on my back in the yard. The old welder’s mask I held to my face was dirty and a bit foggy from its many years lying idle in the barn. Through the small window in its front, I could just make out the beginning of the solar eclipse.
What an amazing thing to witness, and I wasn’t even in the zone of totality. But what really made it unforgettable, surprisingly, was social media. I’ve had a turbulent relationship with these sites and how they fit into my life. It is easy to become addicted to the constant stream of content, liking, sharing, and commenting. I harbor a fair amount of guilt over the time I spend perusing Instagram, waiting for my favorite accounts to post a bit of entertainment. It wasn’t until August 21, 2017, that I felt the connection social media allowed. As the eclipse cut a path across the United States, I felt united with my fellow citizens as we all spent the day staring at the sun or wishing we could.
Our country is currently divided. Emotions run high over various issues and our current president. On the day of the solar eclipse, we all seemed to take a day off from politics. We came together, united in wonderment.
From the moment I opened my Instagram account, there was electricity and anticipation in the air. The eclipse’s path arched across the US, from west to east it traveled across the country. My first thoughts were, “Great, my feed is going to be full of nothing but eclipse posts.” Then, I saw the first clip from the zone of totality. It started with friends and strangers out west. I watched mesmerized as people gasped and giggled and were struck as the moon slipped over the sun and everything went dark. I can’t even explain the connection I felt as post after post showed this same sense of wonder at the world, and I would take a moment to glance up from my little place in it. The feeling of awe was palpable in every shared experience of this spectacular event.
Sitting alone in my yard, I felt connected to a nation. I was a part of something bigger than myself. Mother Nature had our attention and we couldn’t look away. We were a country in turmoil that stopped everything to spend the day outside staring up at the sun with unbridled curiosity.That moment of darkness elicited a response from each and every person. It brought grown men to tears. Even the insects and animals came out to play, momentarily tricked into singing their evening songs in the middle of the day. I am so happy I tuned in to listen.
It was not something you could call friendship; it was at once less and more. The sharing of such experiences created a bond and set them apart from all others. —Anne Perry, A Sudden, Fearful Death