The Sky’s Gone Out
Grasses low and tall, particolored petals, and lush leaves bent to strong breezes. In the warmth of the summer morning, cottonwood canopies made their watery wind songs. Bright and muted greens and umbers were below and all around us; a saturated azure sky above with wisps and blots of white and pretty grays in the clouds. We’d come to a tallgrass prairie after the dawn of a lovely Monday, 21 August 2017, and we walked half a mile to a hilltop to spend a couple of carefree hours.
There was a joy in gathering. We were hundreds strong at our specific location, folks laying out blankets and dotting the landscape in picnicky clusters, with sodas, beer, and wine. At the same time across the United States there were millions gathering in a roughly 70-mile narrow swath, having left behind jobs and other cares of their individual and collective worlds to witness a solar, lunar, and earthly pageant.
We shared positive motivations to come together; in addition to wanting to see a fascinating and rare spectacle there was an unmistakable vibe that was both invigorating and comforting. The vibe is currently also fascinating and rare; it was an incorruptible feeling that something wonderful would occur, and that nothing controversial was at stake.
A glorious convergence of the spinning, hurtling earth with the majestic moon would give us steady glimpses of our movement as we float in space, and eventually the moon would obliterate all but a spectacular corona of our sun.
When the blockage was total, we heard and contributed to a strange and welcome new music, a music that was not conscious of itself. Organic, impulsive, sincere, and wondrous, it was the human and natural sound of music coming from simple exhalations, or murmuring words, (Oh my goodness!) or whooping in a cheer. There was music of confused animals swirling in the newly cooled and darkened air.
We made music for a couple of moments based upon a crazy shared feeling: together we were small, or huge, or at peace. Together we were awed and simply at ease. Some thought in that moment of loved ones, or of the future of their children, or of the future of the earth, or of the solar system.
It can be reported with certainty that one humbled witness thought of his fortunate life with his wife, of his dear friends and sisters, and he thought of his moon-loving, deceased mother.
Not only was the sun eclipsed from our view, but cynicism and worry were eclipsed, too. We were looking up. And we were looking at each other.
“Life is but a dream …. The sky’s gone out.”
Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, the title track by Spiritualized (1997 Arista.)
Many thanks to my friend, Andy Agena, who captured the panoramic view presented above. There we were, with hundreds, millions of others, watching the sun set and rise again in the afternoon. The total eclipse at Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, one of my favorite places on this tiny planet. A few inspiring moments, a treasured memory.
27 August 2017