If it wasn’t for my husband, I would have been inside folding laundry during the hoopla, the day of the 2017 eclipse. But his fascination for astronomy drove us four hours away to THE ZONE OF TOTALITY (it sounds more amazing when you say it in a loud, baritone, all-caps way). If you weren’t tuned into the buzz, the zone of totality is the path along states where the moon completely covered the sun. As my husband put it, “Being in 98% versus 100% totality is like being in a plane versus jumping out of a plane.”
Still, I wasn’t so sure it was going to be worth it, especially staying in a dump because we couldn’t find any other affordable place at the last minute. I knew, though, that “when Momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy”. So I Clorox-wiped away the mouse poop on the windowsills of our “cozy cabin” (as described by its listing), squeezed our $50/night lemon, and hoped real hard for lemonade.
When the moment finally came, it took me by surprise. Even though I knew what to expect (daylight dimming, temperature dropping, crickets chirping, bites being taken out of the sun until the whole bright cookie was gone … then total darkness except for a 360-degree sunset while the moon covered the whole entire sun!), my reaction was totally unexpected. I was like a kid waking up to snow on a school day. I was no longer a 40-year-old mom concerned with acting like one. I gasped and yelled and hooped and hollered (thankfully, the path of totality went through the South, so hooping and hollering was totally a thing). I recorded part of it, aiming to capture my kids’ reactions, but almost didn’t post it out of embarrassment of my own!
Thankfully, as I later scrolled through my Instagram feed, I found that adults everywhere were losing themselves too! What was it about this astronomical event (besides it being just that) that turned us all into kids again? I believe that it was possibly something even greater than science, astronomy, and math. August 21st, 2017 was the day that we were reacquainted with a long lost friend, Wonder.
Webster defines wonder as “a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable”. Can we just sit with that for a minute? I’m having a hard time thinking that there could be anything more wonderful; and yet, wonder seems to be something we lose, something we grow out of. Just like Billy Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend in Inside Out, Wonder at some point gets tossed into the memory dump — neglected and forgotten.
Before Monday, when feelings of inexplicable amazement were rekindled during the eclipse, I wouldn’t have cared. Other than witnessing it secondhand through my kids, Wonder had been hibernating so long that I had forgotten what I was missing. But now that she has been awakened and has come out of her cave to play, I don’t want to lose her again.
Yet as I write, I feel my adult-ness creeping in and asking, Does it even matter? Wonder is incredibly fun to experience, but is it important? I think the man who has walked the moon himself would say YES.
“Mystery creates wonder, and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.” – Neil Armstrong
For one brief afternoon, all the shouting about current events seemed to hush as we collectively watched the heavens, in awe. As we looked outside of and above ourselves to something far grander, mystery became wonder, and wonder became — to the extent of our humanity — understanding. We were reminded that even things seemingly spiraling out of control are, in fact, perfectly ordered. I wonder, how far can this marvelous act of Wonder go?