The sled moved easily across the crusty snow, but I still kept pausing every 30 seconds to make sure I hadn’t lost anything. 

It was after sundown and it wouldn’t do to have my backpack jump over the side on the quarter-mile trail to the camp. 

By the time I had hauled the sled off the main trail and up the short hill past the outhouse, I was starting to get a little winded but the cargo was intact and so we might live through the night after all. 

It was early evening in the thick woods of Shirley, a tiny little town down the road a sneeze from Moosehead Lake.  

This trip had not been my idea — hiking deep into the northern Maine woods on the eve of the eclipse just seemed like so much trouble. All this fussing for a celestial event you couldn’t even LOOK at without frying your retinas? 

That’s stupid, bruh. That’s the kind of thing people from out-of-state do. 


I had planned to watch the overhyped affair from my backyard, but a certain wife had other ideas. A very generous friend had invited us to stay at her camp, and said wife would not be mollified by even my most creative excuses to get out of it.

“We have to go up nooooorth?” she implored all Bambi-eyed. “I want to see the totaaaaality!” 

Ah, yes, the much ballyhooed totality. From what I understood, after being forced to read a bunch of Helpful Eclipse Facts, only those in a narrow band of territory in the northern part of the state would be blessed with witnessing true totality. Those chosen few would behold the mighty sun reduced to a feeble corona for three awe-inspiring minutes. They would see day turn to night in the middle of the afternoon, and to hear that unnamed wife tell it, settling for a mere partial eclipse was something we were apt to regret for the rest of our lives. 

I rolled my eyes a lot as she said these things. When she used terms like “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” I heaved heavy sighs and scrambled for more excuses.

You have to understand that for weeks — nay, MONTHS, now that I think of it — I had been scoffing at all talk of this overblown affair. 

When stern-faced state officials foretold of massive traffic jams in Maine’s most remote regions, I guffawed and rolled my eyes some more. 


Traffic jams! In places like Shirley, Maine! 

When normally sane friends went on and on about how magnificent it was going to be, this delicate dance between sun and moon, I tittered and chortled at the same time, which ain’t as easy as it sounds. 

“Pttth,” I’d say, spittle a-flying, “You can’t even look at the stupid thing without going blind. I just don’t see what the big deal is about the sun going away for a few minutes. It does that at the end of every day, you know.” 

Oh, but my wife persisted. We have a chance to see the totaaaaaaality… 

And so off I went into the great snowy north, quietly grousing and sneering and outright marveling over what a waste of time this all was. 

And then, sometime after 2 p.m., the moon took that small bite out of the sun and, OK. That IS kind of cool to look at through those goofy glasses. I will give you that. 


And sure, it was pretty fun hanging out next to a frozen lake on a day that felt like spring while dozens of strangers sprawling in lawn chairs gaped at the sky. 

And granted, when half the sun got gobbled up by the greedy, encroaching moon, I started to feel a stir of enthusiasm somewhere in my middle parts. 

And when some little boy started marching up and down across the muddy parking lot shouting, “It’s the end of the world! It’s the end of the world, everybody!” I laughed out loud and wished I’d said it first. 

When somebody told me — it might have been the aforementioned wife — that you could actually see the eclipse unfolding in puddles of water, I’ll admit it. I got a little giddy.  

There was some cool factoid, too, about how during an eclipse such as this, the very leaves on the trees can act as pinhole projectors. I said something that might have been “whoa!” or possibly “neat-O!” 

The more the sun vanished behind the moon, the more enthralled my group of fellow travelers became and, by gum, I was getting pretty riled, too. I talked to people who had come from all over just to stand outdoors and watch the moon overtake the sun. It became a shared experience. For one magical chunk of time, it seemed like everyone in this part of the world was suddenly unified. As the sun went away, so did the bickering, the rancor, the disagreements about this thing or that. 


What I was starting to feel, against my will, was awe. The same kind of awe the ancient ones must have felt, along with dread and wonder, at seeing the same sun vanishing behind the same moon. 

I was standing next to a little family of four when totality approached. 

“It’s coming!” shouted a boy of about 5. “It’s coming! Look, it’s getting dark!” 

And, what do you know? It WAS getting dark! The world took on a kind of silver hue that was not dawn or dusk or anything I’ve ever recalled seeing before. The shadows of the trees became stark, hard lines as though the trees themselves had become very still in honor of the wonders above. 

When I watched that very last slice of the sun disappear, brothers, I felt something. I don’t know what it was, but I was moved in a way that’s almost spiritual. I still have no idea why I felt such a strange, stirring emotion, but there it was. 

Then the sun was gone and all that remained was that ring of fire around the moon. The streetlights popped on. The temperature seemed to drop 10 degrees all at once and there was a feeling of… 


But, I don’t know exactly what that feeling was. The whole world seemed to become preternaturally still and calm. There was a moment of abject peace, of a kind I’ve never felt before. For a long moment, it felt as though the world had taken a brief timeout so that its complex human inhabitants could take a moment to reflect upon their existence. 

For me, it was a profound moment. After all my eye-rolling and boorish dismissal of the affair, the affair itself had moved me.

All of those screeching eclipse fans were right, after all. The sun and moon came together for a moment that really WAS glorious.

“Ohhhhh,” said a little girl, standing on a picnic table and gaping big-eyed at the oddity in the sky. “Oh, wooooow!” 

I don’t know if I mustered any words at all, myself. If I did, they were likely the same.

“Oh,” I might have muttered. “Wow.”


I stand here before you a man humbled by a spectacle in the heavens. I thought I was beyond being stirred by such a thing, but stirred I was and it’s a moment I’ll always remember. 

When the sun started to poke its face over the shoulder of the moon again, there was some disappointment. There had been a powerful moment experienced collectively and now that moment had passed. 

Moments later, lawn chairs were being broken down and hauled back to cars. Coolers were packed up and little kids strapped into back seats. 

And then we were all on the road again and the clot of traffic, just as those state officials had portended, was thick and slow moving. 

As we inched away from Shirley and back toward the highway, there were honked horns and shouted words. Tempers flared and strangers, who had moments earlier shared something powerful and even beautiful, now shared middle fingers and shouted insults. 

The real world was back, with all of its hostility and ugliness, but hey. 

At least we had that moment. 

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