Wonder of eclipse may not be all celestial


The moon budged in front of the sun last week for the first time in about six years. It won’t happen again for another 20.
As I drove around north Lee County looking for kids and adults alike staring up at the sky, I thought this is getting to be like fireworks – if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all.
I’ve seen lunar eclipses where the earth moves in between the sun and the moon and casts its shadow on the moon, blocking it out. That one’s a little easier on the eyes.
I’m that guy that would’ve been turned to a pillar of salt had I been around when Madussa was terrifying people who dared look into her eyes. I mean, I would have just been trying to see the damned snakes in her hair, but I wouldn’t have been able to not look.
I did that on the 8th. At about 1:15 I left the house and headed out with my camera to get pictures of the phenomenon. I could see that the sky seemed to be dimming just a bit and I couldn’t help myself. I turned with my hand up to the sky and looked at my hand with the sun/moon paradox behind. Then I moved my hand slightly with the glare peaking around my fingers, and WOW was that stupid.
Not even a quarter of a second and I had my eyes closed and my head turned. This big bright circle of white light was now imprinted on the black blanket behind my closed eyes. They weren’t messing around. I felt like my eyes were exhausted as I headed toward the high school to see who was sitting outside craning their neck to the sky with cardboard glasses on. (Dangling prepositions are now acceptable according to Miriam-Webster, so don’t be going all grammar cop on me).
I first went to the Fort Madison High School where a group of inquisitive and very friendly students were sitting on the new elevated walkway outside the construction on the school’s west side.
They were all looking up when I stopped to shoot their picture and they were all too willing to pose. I pointed my camera up and just fired randomly. One of the students said I shouldn’t do that because it could damage my camera. He was probably right, the images were all just washed no matter how much I dropped my aperture and sped up the camera speed. So yeah, looking up with bare eyes, not a good idea.
But as I went around snapping pictures of school kids out with teachers and associates looking up, it struck at how something like this can create energy around people. It’s like everything stopped for these kids who sat at picnic tables outside the junior high and just looked up. Associates monitored the usage of the glasses and took repeated peaks themselves. For a moment there was no socioeconomic forces at bear. For a moment there was just everyone sharing in a cosmic production. It also makes you wonder what power there would be in being able to harness that attention for two hours every day.
What could we accomplish with everyone that dialed in?
The point was driven even further home when I arrived at Central Lee and saw basically the entire district sitting in classes around the track between the high school and elementary school. Superintendent Dr. Andy Crozier was out with the students, there was music blasting from the public address system – songs with “Sun” in the title or space. Pods of elementary kids neatly grouped with Hawks t-shirts on. Everyone looking with glasses into the dimmed Lee County sky as 83% of the sun got blocked by the moon. Even at 83%, the day just slightly got darker.
What if we could take advantage of that concentrated attention grab for a couple hours every day and focus it on something that IS under our control. One student from Central Lee walked past me with a welding helmet on, looking up the sky. He said it worked better than the glasses, it seemed a bit heroic to me.
No one was thinking about the soccer game that night, or the test they had to take, or getting to work, or going home. They all were focused on something galactic and celestial – all watching something amazingly simple. We can’t have intersections in the sky every day, but we just might be able to see the value in the concentration. And this was just Lee County. A good swath of the country’s eastern half was doing the same thing we were doing on the same day and at essentially the same time.. You multiply that out and the power is mindboggling. I get the same sense when I’m at a concert and the front man holds the microphone out and everyone is singing the same words at the same time. That’s incredibly powerful and goose pimply.
And speaking of heavenly occurrences, a heartfelt message today to a family that has become special to me over the past four years. Will, Amy, Drew, and Addison you’re in the thoughts and prayers of many today as you mourn the loss of a father and grandfather. I believe God mourns loss just like we do, but in the creation we get to be with great people who make the loss easier – but that’s Beside the Point.
Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

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