In my life I have experienced three partial eclipses of the sun. When we found that we were going to be only 200 or so miles from the line of 100% totality we got out the map and started planning our journey to see this wonder of nature...a total eclipse.
Drawing a line on the map from west to east we spotted the perfect place. An area just north of Highway 50, a Conservation Area that included a lake and hiking trails. Port Hudson Lake.
Leaving early last Sunday we drove up past Rolla, motored through Belle and Bland and Owensville. Turned right toward Rosebud. Drove on through Gerald. Turned to the north and followed the road to the lake. Arriving we found that we were not alone. A few fishermen in boats, a few people fishing from the dock. In essence the perfect place to see the eclipse.
On Monday we got up very early, in the dark, anticipating crowded roads and lots of people on their way up I-44 to see this celestial miracle. Pleasantly surprised by the empty road and easy sailing, we stopped to stock up on lunch supplies and grab a bite of breakfast. On the way we saw a yard sale sign. The man who was sitting by the cash box and selling various interesting items was pleased to see us. Were there many people here to see the eclipse, we asked. No, not many. But he had decided to set up anyway...taking advantage of the expected crowd. Was he impressed with the eclipse-to-come? Not too much. He thought it might just be like a cloudy day. Nothing to get too excited about.
Arriving at our spot we found more than a few people had gotten there before us. We strolled around, fished a little, took a walk around the lake and hiked up a solitary hill. Perfect. Just a perfect place to view the coming attraction. With excitement mounting we came back to the truck and fixed a little bite to eat. The day was hot. We sought shade on the boat dock and visited with the growing crowd of people. Some came from Arkansas, some from nearby, and some from farther away. They put up sunshades and open tents. We saw one or two fancy telescopes and cameras. Things were getting pretty serious here.
Finally we checked our time and made the trip back to our solitary hill. As we walked we sensed the beginning of the dimming of light. I remembered how the sun appeared to fade when I had experienced an eclipse before. There is a difference in the light...almost a bleaching out of color. We climbed up to the field and waited.
Putting on our glasses we watched the sun move from a fat crescent to a small and smaller sliver. And then, just as if someone was blowing out the light of a candle, the air around us grew chilly and darkness descended down around us. Taking off our glasses we saw it ...a total eclipse of the sun. The moon stood there, blocking the light. With our glasses off we marveled at this amazing sight.
For me it was an almost holy experience. I began to cry. My heart beat so fast. Actually, I don't think I could ever find the words to describe what I saw. I was at once very small in the universe...and very alone standing there on that hill.
I took some pictures as the moon began to move away from the sun. The brighter colors came back. We took some pictures of the crescent sun as it grew larger, its shadow making tiny arcs on the bare ground and through the smaller leaves of a river birch.
Coming back to the parking lot, many people were already leaving. We stayed until the sun emerged whole again. Sharing our experience with the others, we found that they were just as awed as we were.
Going back through town we stopped by to see our friend, the garage sale man. So, what did he think of the eclipse? Awesome, is what he said. It was absolutely awesome. Never thought it would be like that. And I think he was having a hard time coming up with words to describe his feelings.
Just like me. At a loss for words. In amazement we all saw something that will live in our memories forever. A total eclipse of the sun.