From time to time, I try to do something off the bell-shaped curve—which explains why this past Monday I was lying on my back on a golf course at a North Georgia Mountain Resort—wearing solar eclipse glasses and being enthralled with the site before my eyes.
The solar eclipse experience was unique. As people gathered on the resort grounds, a party atmosphere developed….. strangers became friends as we watched the transition. I experienced many of the things you have read about—the temperature dropped; crickets could be heard; the sky slowly dimmed but it was different from the usual dawn/dusk. Instead, it was a silvery dim light that got eerier as totality came close.
Just before totality, the lawn of the golf course was filled with faint, flickering, shimmering waves of light…. scurrying rapidly across the ground… as if they were dancing. They literally washed over the golf course lawn. These waves of lights, known as shadow bands, are stripes of light created by the sun’s last rays being distorted by Earth’s turbulent atmosphere. It is the same effect that makes stars appear to twinkle.
I laid on my back on the grass wearing my solar eclipse glasses and watched as the light around the sun’s rim slowly got smaller and smaller and then poof—there was no light. At that point, we took off our glasses—everyone in the crowd was going ohhh and wow and ahhhh.
A sunset appeared — but it was eerie and unlike any sunset I have seen. And then….it was over and a small streak of light emerged signaling it was time to put the solar eclipse glasses back on.
That night, as I was having dinner, I thought about the day’s activities. Seeing the sun disappear was truly amazing. I thought about past cultures…. the fear they must have felt as the bright light in the sky started to vanish….. feeling the chill come into the air….. darkness settling around them. It must have seemed as if the world was ending. Even today, in less civilized countries, people bang on pots and pans to encourage the sun to return.
But I will have to admit as much as the disappearing sun was an awesome sight, it has been my post-eclipse thoughts about the dark side of the moon and stars which have made the biggest impression on me.
During the eclipse, we literally see the “dark side of the moon” as it travels across the sun. In the Apollo space program, the expression— “dark side of the moon”—was used by astronauts as they were going around the moon and communication would be lost. You were always nervous until you heard their voices again.
The moon has a dark side because there is no light reflecting from it. It on is the opposite side of the sun’s direct rays. The same is true for the planets that light up our night skies.
They only get their beauty when they reflect light.
I wondered….. does that thought hold true for us….. as individuals…. that beauty occurs when we reflect light?
I love looking at a starlit sky especially on clear nights when the stars look as if they are twinkling. And yet, they are not really twinkling. The sparkle occurs when the light crosses through our turbulent atmosphere—its path is not straight—the light is bent as it responds to the turbulence.
This thought captivated my mind…..in response to challenges….. in response to turbulence….. the light does not shut down….. it does not dim….. it is not blocked. The reflecting light ray keeps going through the atmosphere—bending as it goes and the end result—we see something that appears a little shinier…. with more sparkle.
Can that also be true of us? In the midst of difficult times….. can we shine brighter?
The question is, of course, how could we do this? How do we shine brighter? How do we reflect light…and more importantly, what is the source of the light?
This question takes on even more significance for me as I have made a commitment for 2017-2018 to be a part of a Spiritual Direction class that will be taught by my priest, Ken Swanson, at St. David’s Episcopal Church. It is not for the faint of heart—we will meet every other Monday night from September to April and we have to commit to an hour a day to be spent in prayer and journal time. (I will confess I tried to talk myself out of this and even came up with a very good list of reasons to say no. But my inner spiritual voice kept nagging at me to sign up.)
And yet, the timing of this class and the thoughts milling around in my head fit together perfectly. As I truly believe the best source of light in my life comes from having a prayerful and active faith walk… where I constantly look at God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength.
I have my “dark side of the moon” days…. where inner voices tell me what a failure I have been… days where I pick the wrong line at the grocery store or when I am stuck in traffic (again.) There is no light reflecting from my face or my soul.
In spite of those days, the truth is—I am the happiest when I can reflect love and joy from my faith walk relationship back to others. But the reality is….. to keep shining…. to keep reflecting light in the form of love and joy….. I need to make sure I am facing the right light source.
This winter as the starlit skies appear, I will take my grandchildren outside. We will look for constellations such as the Belt of Orion and share the stories behind them. But this year, there will be a new story to share ….one about stars and how the twinkling is really light responding to turbulence. We will talk about the planets we do not see… ones hidden from view….. because they are not reflecting light.
I will ask them….what kind of star do they want to be …one that is hidden by darkness or one that shines brightly? I will tell them their Nana wants to be a bright star and the light I reflect back should shine with love and joy and kindness. We will look in the sky and pick out the Nana-Star.
Hopefully, one day, when I am no longer here—they will look at the night skies—and find the brightest star—and it will remind them of me and the love I shared with them and others.
And so the choice for you, dear reader, is the same as for me—dark or bright—what kind of star do you want to be? Will others be able to look up in the night sky and remember your light?
I hope so… it is my hope that you can come to understand that the greatest source of light does not come from within….it is not based on merely willing yourself to survive or trying to act happy…. But it comes a faith inspired source that will always be there for you—one that will let you shine brightly…..no matter what.
Pictures from a Memorable Day
Morning view from my balcony
View of Golf Course
Pac-Man Crescent Shadow Reflection
Watching and Waiting
More Crescent Shadow Reflections
Sunset at 2:36 PM
Celebrating the Day
Time for Quiet Reflection
View from my Balcony – The Sun’s Final Show