We all got our glasses and watched our clocks, and when the time drew near we gathered outdoors, in backyards and parking lots and green spaces, and we cast our eyes to the heavens.
Here in the Triad, just a hair’s breadth off the Zone of Totality, we were assured a genuine celestial event, as much as 93 percent coverage, with a false dusk around 2:30 p.m. followed shortly thereafter by a new dawn.
It’s instinctual to assign meaning into an event like this, which is basically the cosmic equivalent to that moment when the bouncing icon on your screensaver runs straight into the corner. For millions of years, humans ascribed metaphysical forces to every raindrop and cloud formation. Those times when the moon ate the sun were historically infused with particular importance — a historical watershed of grand proportions.
A solar eclipse is nothing but a mathematical inevitability in the vortex of time and space; there’s one happening somewhere on Jupiter literally all the time. And though it wasn’t all that long ago — not even 400 years! — that Gallileo ran afoul of the church for suggesting the Earth revolved around the sun, most of us understand that an eclipse is not a magic trick or a visitation; it doesn’t have to mean anything.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t.
At the very least, this eclipse gave the people in our communities an opportunity to be outside, together, to look to the sun that we so often take for granted and contemplate the universe as it passed before our eyes.
As the night critters began their chirpings in the fresh twilight and then silenced in confusion as the corona grew to afternoon light, it was impossible not to feel, even if just for a moment, a sense of renewal.
Unless, of course, you were in Greensboro, where a small, isolated storm — the only weather activity for 100 miles — laid thick cloud cover upon most of the city at almost the exact moment the moon made its pass, and stayed there until just after it was all over.
How’s that for a metaphor?