The Total Solar Eclipse Made America Great Again

The Great American Solar Eclipse occurred this week and I was one of the lucky ones who was able to witness it within the path of totality. Also, how cool is my new favorite phrase — “path of totality”? I was invited over a month ago to join my friend and her parents for Oregon State University’s Space Grant Festival, a three-day event celebrating the total solar eclipse. According to OSU, the school “host[ed] the event as the lead institution for the Oregon NASA Space Grant and to deliver on its mission of providing education, research and public outreach to inspire the next generation of explorers.” Neat!

With people nicknaming this event as the “apoc-eclipse,” I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially with the news hyping that the event would attract people from not only all over the country, but all over the world. So, I did what I always do when preparing for uncertain adventures: pack like I won’t have food or shelter for an undetermined amount of time. This included bringing a Costco-sized box of Cheez-Its, my Nintendo 3DS, downloading all the S-Town podcast episodes, and purchasing another external battery pack. Listen, I didn’t say I would be the best person to cling to in a disaster, but at least one of us won’t be bored.

Driving down to Corvallis on Saturday was a breeze. I think everyone either panicked and left the day before, or maybe others thought Saturday would be slammed and stayed home. Either way, it made for an easy drive that got us to campus in no time. (The drive home is another story though — a whopping seven hours!)

As we walked toward the dorm we were staying in, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for college life. I’ve been out for ten years already, and I wouldn’t mind going back to midday naps on my friend’s bed after studying linguistics for hours on end. That being said, I don’t miss communal bathrooms and the on-campus dining, so I guess I’ll stay put for now.

The university offered a series of events, workshops, and lectures throughout the weekend, and I was most excited to learn how to photograph the eclipse. We made cool solar filters using cardboard circles and what looked like fancy aluminum foil (it wasn’t). I’m a very amateur photographer, but it was really interesting to hear everyone else nerd out about their cameras and space at the same time. Our instructor was an astronomer who loved photography. He told us he hadn’t slept for two days (!) due to his excitement.

When Monday, aka Eclipse Day, finally arrived, the commotion and enthusiasm were unlike anything I had ever experienced. Thousands had gathered on the fields, and for about two hours, the focus was on science and not much else. One gentleman with his two young sons brought his telescope and was eagerly telling passersby to take a look because he had found sun spots. He wanted to share this special moment with as many people he could. When would he get this chance again?

The moments leading up the total solar eclipse filled me joy, energy, and anxiety. When it finally reached totality, I was foolishly fumbling with my camera to get that perfect shot I had been practicing the day before. After about 30 seconds, I gave up on my camera and just sat back in awe. I didn’t want to miss viewing the universe’s display of perfection. While I’m mad at myself for not getting a picture (I accidentally left the solar filter on), being fully present was a much better option.

It is still hard for me to describe the feelings I had during the eclipse, but I had an overwhelming sense of love and the greatness of God’s gifts. In that moment, nothing else mattered. Our universe is amazing!

Here are a few of the pictures I did capture from the day (the last one is from my friend’s dad):

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