Okay, let’s make one more thing clear. I did not drive all the way to Kansas from California just to be in a totality area. There were places in Oregon I could have gone. But I was already in Iowa so the three hour drive down to Atchison, Kansas, offered me two wonderful experiences: to see the total solar eclipse and to spend time with some of my Kansas cousins whom I rarely have the opportunity to see.
That Monday wasn’t promising to begin with. I left Des Moines in a thunderstorm. But by the time I crossed the Missouri border, the clouds were clearing—or maybe just moving—to Kansas. I found the park where everyone was to meet an hour before TE-time and parked. I heard thunder and stayed in my car. Four people were sitting out in lawn chairs under this huge tree. They didn’t move. I marveled at their bravery. Maybe native Kansans knew something this Californian didn’t. Then the rain started, and I rolled up my windows. The four Kansans stayed put. I wondered at their stupidity.
Then the rain and thunder stopped and my cousins, a few members of their church, and my brother and sister-in-law (who had driven from Colorado) arrived, and began doing what everyone in the Midwest does at major events. They set up the picnic lunch. We checked our watches, consulted the Weather Channel App, and determined that there was still time for the clouds to move on––or at least part––so that we could see the totality.
Then the rains came––twice––and we ran to the shelter of the cars. (The previous four had left completely by this time.) We prayed for the clouds to part just in time for us to see totality. But they didn’t. Though the rain had stopped and we could catch glimpses of the sun through the clouds, we didn’t need our special glasses, and I could also see the disappointment on my brother’s face. (He is a science guy and this was big stuff.) But even with the cloud cover, the air grew still, the birds stopped singing, and the darkness enveloped us. We, too, could see the glow of the 360 horizon. It was eerie and surreal.
Almost immediately after the totality, the clouds began to move out of the way, and we pulled out our glasses and watched the waning of the eclipse, and wondered about God’s timing. Why didn’t He move the clouds just a few minutes sooner? This seemed like kind of a cruel joke.
But then something unexpected happened. Even though we didn’t see the sun’s corona or Baily’s beads or the diamond ring effect, we found ourselves talking about how neat our experience was and how different it was from anyone else in the entire US. It was something unique that only we (and the others in this part of Kansas) experienced, and so now we saw our experience as special––and something we could laugh about for years to come.
Yes, sometimes we wonder about God’s timing, how it might prevent us from having those experiences everyone else gets to have. But if we don’t continue our pity party and instead look at the experience He has allowed us to participate in and enjoy, we might find that it is unique and perhaps in some ways even better.
As for me and my total eclipse experience?
Fortunately this “once in a lifetime” experience will happen again April 8, 2024 only I will have to drive a bit further—or not.