On the trip down, we stopped and spent the night in Myrtle Beach among the circus that is the main strip along the beach. I can't imagine a greater contrast between the carnival rides and countless cheap gift shops of Myrtle Beach and the peace and natural beauty of the Francis Marion National Forest where we stopped to view the eclipse. But I don't bring that up to condemn Myrtle Beach, only to point out the difference and to try to convey the beauty of our surroundings for the eclipse, even though we were beside a major highway. The live oaks, Spanish moss, crickets, crows, and blue skies of Eastern South Carolina make for a wonderful setting to experience the vastness of our wonderful Universe in action, as witnessed through a total eclipse on an August Sunday. We met our neighbors, looked through their respective filtered telescopes, got to know each other, and settled in for the show.
We all stood in the late August South Carolina heat on the side of the road and looked into the sky with specialty glasses from Amazon, looking like grade schoolers with cheap sunglasses or mid-twentieth century teenagers at a 3-D drive-in movie. There were a few troublesome clouds throughout the day, but they managed to part, as if on cue, as the full eclipse began. Slowly, as the moon began to overtake the sun, the crickets and locusts started to sing their nocturnal tunes. The wind cooled down just a bit. The traffic stopped. There were no sounds of airplanes or lawn mowers or any of the other industrial noises we are surrounded by to the degree that we no longer notice but mindlessly take for granted. For two and a half minutes it seemed that everything on Earth paused for this mild celestial show. I was lying back on the hood of the car looking up with my safety glasses and it felt as if I were floating in silence; nothing below, the vastness of the heavens above, and warm peace all around. And then the sun peeked out from the other side and their was an uproar of joyous approval from all around. Everyone was ecstatic and in awe. The feeling was triumphant. Then we shook hands, hugged, exchanged phone numbers and email addresses and went our separate ways. Within minutes the traffic and noises resumed and the rains came.
Looking back, I can easily say this was one of the most memorable moments of my life. I told some one beforehand, half in jest, that it was a spiritual quest for me. I really think it was, but not in the way many people may interpret that. This was a moment when everyone in my immediate vicinity was captivated and in total awe, all together at the same time. Without a word being spoken we all realized both our insignificance in relation to the Universe, and our immeasurable worth as equal and interrelated integral components of this same Universe. Every single person I saw after this event had a giant smile on his or her face. I felt as if my heart had expanded beyond the limits of my body to embrace all of life, and I feel sure everyone else felt the same thing.