Under The Shadow Of The Moon

April 8, 2024 – The anticipation of witnessing another total solar eclipse in Illinois grew as the calendar neared the date in early April 2024. I remember talking about the 2024 eclipse with my brother while stuck in traffic just north of Carbondale after witnessing the 2017 Great American Eclipse at Giant City State Park. 2024 seemed so far away at the time. Crossing the United States from Texas to Maine on the 8th, the path of darkness came smack-dab over Southern Illinois again, similar to the August 21, 2017, eclipse, this time with the shadow covering almost twice the width as it moved to the northeast unlike in 2017 when the shadow went from northwest to southeast. Many people had made plans months, even years, in advance so they could choose where in the path of totality they should be for this life-changing celestial event. Travelers had turned to historical weather data to help select the most likely locations for clear skies in the United States along the shadow path for April 8. I just relied on the current weather reports for Southern Illinois, and it was starting to look pretty good leading up to the event with only some high wispy clouds possible, but some of the historically cloudless areas began to look problematic; it was like nature was playing a dirty trick on those proactive and relying on weather science. But on eclipse day, while there were spotty areas of cloud cover across the path, most locations were treated to some great views of the eclipse from Texas to Maine, although some may have had to make last-minute changes to find open skies. Members of my family who gathered at my sister’s house near Raccoon Lake in Centralia were excited and lucky to be under clear skies as the moon started to move across the sun. An awe fell upon us as we looked towards the sky, and the moon became a coal-black door slowly and silently, sliding across the sun, extinguishing the bright, warm light that feeds all life on our little planet. Confused birds were flying low with urgency toward their evening roosts and singing sunset songs as the cool darkness set in and totality was at the door. Venus called out to the crowd with its brilliant glimmer in the ever-dimming light, look here, I am here. And without hesitation, down to the second, in an implosion of silver and black, the sun was reduced to a shimmer of plasma and flame with prominences many times the size of the Earth bulging from the edges, and humanity reacted. For those fleeting moments, under that shadowy ooze, voices of joy and wonder echoed, sending those worldly problems deep into the Earth towards its molten core from where they came; within those few minutes, across the land, without myth or fear, many millions became oneĀ and humans embraced a moment of enlightenment while standing spellbound under the shadow of the moon.