My reaction to the solar eclipse surprised me.
I’ve been aware of the predictions for the eclipse for months now, and last fall added it to my calendar as a point of interest.
That interest piqued a bit when I visited my parents one day a few months ago, and my dad told me that he and Mom were “making plans to follow the path of totality.” At first, this news first made me envision that my folks had joined a cult, but Dad must have noticed the perplexed look on my face and quickly explained that it was in regard to the eclipse.
I love language, and I love science. So, I was as tickled to learn a new scientific phrase as I was to find out that my 85-year-old parents were planning another in a long line of adventures. On Monday morning, they loaded their tent and gear and headed off for a state park in Missouri to watch the eclipse.
By late morning on Monday, it was pretty clear that for much of Story County, the eclipse was going to be obstructed by clouds.
So instead of hinging my hopes on parting clouds, I took my lunch break and watched on television as people in Madras, Ore., enjoyed clear skies and their place in the path of totality.
Science has always been one of my favorite subjects, an interest-fueled curiosity that also makes me enjoy the job I have. So the information about the eclipse; the alignment of the sun, moon and Earth; the path of totality; the historic significance of the event and the fact that so many of my fellow human beings were interested in it — all of these things pulled me in.
The television news did a good job of covering the solar event for those of us who couldn’t witness it firsthand. In a split screen, I watched the moon pass before the sun, saw darkness fall upon the landscape, witnessed what appeared to be a sunset on the horizon and heard the cheers when the totality took place.
All of that is what I expected.
Then the moon moved past the sun and the light erupted from the side of the shadow. The crowd cheered louder.
And I found myself with tears rolling down my cheeks. I was not expecting that at all.
I was momentarily overcome by the symbolism of the darkness not being able to extinguish the light.
In the past week or so, the ugliness and darkness in the world has seemed to be mounting. A terrorist attack in Barcelona. Torch-toting Nazis and white supremacists in Virginia, U.S.A., creating some of the ugliest public scenes I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.
And close to home, too.
The vitriol I’ve witnessed among Story County residents on social media in recent days has been overwhelming. A vicious disagreement about a craft fair — yes, a craft fair — in Nevada. Acrimonious comments regarding the lack of a public restroom at a downtown Ames business. Threats and negative reviews posted about a café in Ames, where neo-Nazis have taken umbrage with an employee’s anti-fascist political views.
The unfiltered cruelty of social media users has made me wince. I don’t expect that type of activity in central Iowa. We are supposed to be Iowa Nice.
The darkness of all of it started to take its toll on my thoughts and feelings.
But for a moment on Monday, the sun and the moon and the Earth and their heavenly dance blocked all of that out for me.
The darkness of the eclipse was momentary.
The light returned in its resplendent glory.
People of all colors, ages, faiths and political views were united in looking up at the heavens. It was a good example that more unites us than divides us.
And I was reminded that the wonders of Mother Nature are an effective salve for my spirit.
Ronna Lawless is a writer for the Story City Herald.