There’s a popular book out this year (He Said/She Said) all about a couple who are “eclipse chasers.” I remember that when I first read the premise (I haven’t, for the record, actually read the book yet), I thought to myself, “Why on earth would anyone care sooo much about the eclipse that they’d actually chase it down?”
Well, that was the old me, the one who had only ever seen a partial eclipse back in elementary school, where all I remember is being shepherded out to the grassy field, told to don glasses, and marvel. While it was obviously cool or unusual enough to remember it happening, I still wondered at the amount of sheer excitement generated over the total eclipse this year. Surely it couldn’t be THAT incredible, right?
**I fully rescind all my former thoughts on the subject.**
Being able to see the total solar eclipse was EXCEPTIONAL. Note-worthy. Mind-blowing. Awe-inspiring.
(Take your pick.)
The fact is, we hadn’t been sure we were even going to make it. Although the drive to see it wouldn’t be far (only in our neighboring state of Idaho), we doubted that we could afford for Matt to take the day off of work for us to drive up with the rest of his family, who would be camping on a farm owned by a friend of my mother-in-law.
Thankfully, Matt was granted some unexpected vacation time just a couple weeks ago, and we instantly knew we wanted to use some of it to drive up to see the eclipse (and, even more than that, to spend some quality time with his family while we still have some summer left).
While the rest of the trip held a fair amount of stress and meltdowns and tantrums thanks to lots of overtired and overexcited kids, we all set up our chairs to face the rising sun yesterday morning and waited in great anticipation for the event of a lifetime.
And I’ve got to say, the eclipse totally delivered (pun unintended, but welcome).
I guess I should have figured out that it would get dark while witnessing a total eclipse, but that fact didn’t dawn on me until a couple of hours before we watched the whole thing go down. I also hadn’t accounted for the fact that the temperatures would drop wildly, that it would be like seeing the last remnants of a sunset in any direction that you looked (rather than the colors being focused only in the west horizon), and that I would be stunned speechless as I took off my glasses, able to view the fully-blocked sun and her halo of white glory with my naked eye.
There have been several studies recently that link the feeling of awe to greater well-being. In one of the studies, the authors described awe as a feeling that is “in the upper reaches of pleasure and on the boundary of fear.”
Later, that study shows a correlation between feeling awe and being able to be more fully present in the moment, feeling awe and feeling more creative, and feeling awe and experiencing a greater sense of hope and appreciation for all that life has to offer.
Check, check, and check.
And I would add that feeling awe immediately helped to melt away any of the stress that we all had been feeling for the days up to that point–I had been about at the edge of my sanity at a couple points just dealing with everyone being practically on top of each other for 3 days (because I’m the kind of person that really needs my space and quiet time to think), but experiencing the eclipse in its totality made the entire trip, without question, totally worth it.
Of course, eclipse-chasing isn’t all we did–
We played games and went to a free planetarium in Twin Falls and read books and talked about life and ate way too much junk food and made friends with the chickens (and people) on the farm and played in the sandbox and took pictures and slept poorly and made oatmeal in the trailer and listened to Harry Potter in the car and worried about traffic and ended up getting home just 6 minutes after our original ETA (estimated time of arrival), as per our GPS.
I think every trip reminds me that although vacations with kids pretty much NEVER go as well as you hope (or at least, as smoothly as they went pre-kids), there is still a lot to be gained by going anyway. Although I would have never *really* understood what I would have missed out on by not going on this trip, I know (because we actually went) that it was more than worth our time and energy and stress.
So glad my in-laws made it possible for us to experience this!