We live just a few hours from Columbia, SC, so when the Great American Eclipse came across my radar (see what I did there?), I knew we had to go. HAD. TO. GO.
How does one live near an eclipse and skip out on it?
At the same time, I wondered if it would be worth it. Really, is two minutes of darkness worth it? I see night every day and it doesn’t rock my world. I like the stars and all, but it’s not like I haven’t seen darkness before. You know?
So, we set our doubts aside and made travel plans.
I researched festivals and events in the Columbia area, but ultimately decided to go to Doko Meadows Park in Blythewood, SC, a small town just north of Columbia. The park hosted a battle of the bands and festival with food trucks and lots of space to spread out. To be honest, though, I picked it because it wasn’t as well known a spot as the Columbia events. I kind of hoped it wouldn’t be too crowded.
And, I was right! YAY! There were plenty of people, but it wasn’t so packed that the food lines were too long (or the restroom lines — you know). And the battle of the bands was a fun addition to the Great American Eclipse event. Here’s a link to my favorite performance of the day:
So, was the Great American Eclipse worth it?
A day later, almost to the minute, I’m still digesting the our Great American Eclipse experience. The festival, the build up, the “MOMENT” of totality… Was it worth it?
The short answer is yes. Absolutely. Totally! As my husband said during the long drive home, “Even if we don’t get home till 11 (that would be seven hours to make a three hour trip), this was totally worth it.”
But why? I’ll do my best to put words to my experience.
The shared experience
The moment we stepped out of our car at the park, we knew we were about to experience something different. Everyone we met — from law enforcement to other people visiting from as far away as Virginia and Atlanta to the local mayor — was warm, welcoming and excited. Just take a look.
Introducing Mayor Mike Ross, Blythewood, SC
The people who chose the shade — smarter than me!
Gotta love the spider balloon hat
And then there’s the eclipse itself
Here are a few photos from my phone — which is NOT the way to photograph the eclipse. But, I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to hold on to the memory however I could. It’s not about the quality of the photos here but the feelings attached that really matter.
If you want to see incredible photos of the eclipse, taken by a real photographer with a real camera, check out Julie Cohn’s post at A Cork, A Fork and a Passport.
Ultimately, it’s the memories
I’m not sure I’ll ever have the words to describe the feelings that come with witnessing a total eclipse, but I do know that those of us who made the trip to experience it in totality were far more awed than those who didn’t.
Is two minutes of “darkness” worth it? YES. ABSOLUTELY YES!
Part of it was the camaraderie we sensed at the festival.
Part of it was the anticipation, the excitement that built as the day moved along.
A lot of it was the Moondoggled Battle of the Bands — I highly recommend watching the eclipse at a festival. So much fun!
Most of it was the eclipse itself, though, something I’d never experienced before. As the moon crossed about halfway in front of the sun, the temperature started to drop. Not a lot, but definitely enough to notice.
Then, the world changed color. We struggled to name it, but it defied description. In some ways, the world muted — a bit of a grayness came across everything. But, there was a purple hew to it too. It was as if the colors of the world muted while becoming tangible. You could almost feel the color in the air. (Though it didn’t come through well in photos.)
The moment the moon eclipsed the sun — cheers erupted, involuntarily, from everyone around us. And some cried. And we tried to see it all, to absorb it. But, having no frame of reference, where does one store these moments in the mind? They’re unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. There’s no anchor.
A total eclipse is nothing like nighttime at all. The sun is still there — influencing the world — not like night when it’s on the other side of the world. It affects the sky, the horizon, the feel of the atmosphere.
An eclipse doesn’t fit the sunset memories filed away. It doesn’t fit with those days where clouds obscure the sun on dark, dreary, rainy days.
An eclipse presents its own, amazing, unique display of beauty.
So, was it worth it?
Before the Great American Eclipse, I expected darkness to obliterate the day. When you look at closeup photos of an eclipse, you see the darkness. But, the sun’s power extends beyond the moon, and darkness never quite arrives. The horizon turns purplish-gray-yellow. Street lights come on. Stars pop out. The ring of light around the moon resembles the sunflower — though more stunning, far more stunning.
The air feels heavy, not oppressive, just present.
And the memory, shared with loved ones, leaves you giddy.
Giddy — It’s that sense of elation that I’ll cherish. It’s the reason I’ll go again. Without a doubt it was worth it!
While you’re here, check out these other amazing experiences — and make memories. They matter most.