I had asked my family and friends not to have any celebrations on Monday, August 21, 2017. Because everyone had listened to me and honored my request, I woke up that morning suddenly realizing that it was now completely up to me to make it a great day. So to begin with, I decided to take myself out to breakfast. I quickly got up and dressed and left my home.
As I drove to the local Taco Bell (okay, yes…I’m a fast food/diner kind of girl!), I was abruptly stopped by a traffic light on State Avenue. As I waited for the light to change, a sudden movement to my right caught my attention. I now focused on a large, chunky, young boy walking down the street. The boy was about 13- or 14-years-old and dressed in blue jeans with a black t-shirt. The long bangs of his black, curly hair brushed against the silver wire frames of his glasses. A tattered, brown backpack was strapped across his broad shoulders. I watched as the young teen pumped his right arm wildly into the air. I couldn’t hear any music, but the punching of the boy’s fist and the quick banging of his head gave the impression that he was listening to rock or heavy metal music. Oh, my gosh, I thought, this was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen! This young boy was dancing down the sidewalk next to the busy avenue without any care of who was watching or what anyone might think! I knew then that that kid had a lot more courage than I ever had. And I prayed that someday I would be that free, too.
I carried the image of the boy in my mind as I parked my car and walked across the lot to the entrance of Taco Bell. Suddenly, the glass door pushed open and a middle-aged man in a torn white t-shirt and glasses walked out. His sparse dark strands of hair were tousled across the bald areas of his head as he stepped to the side and held the door open for me. “Thank you,” I told him to which he quickly responded, “You’re welcome.” Then he enthusiastically shouted, “God bless you! God bless you!” I stopped for a moment and smiled. I don’t know who the man was or what special powers he may possess but I suddenly felt immensely blessed as I ate my breakfast and contemplated the rest of my day.
And the day just kept getting better. I returned home to find that the neighbors across the street from our house were out in their front yard. The three-year-old son was joyfully running around the lawn with his hands raised up in the air as his voice emitted loud shrieks. The child would run up to his father and then spin around. He would walk slowly away while screaming, “Monster! Monster!” That was the father’s cue to chase after the boy who ran around the yard in wild circles. Finally, the man grabbed the child and threw him up in the air as both father and son giggled loudly. Then, the boy was placed on the ground and the whole sequence would start all over again. I covertly watched the neighbors play for a few minutes before climbing out of my car and walking inside the house.
I spent the majority of the afternoon cleaning my room and tossing away my old files of class notes, bank statements, and receipts. Today, I felt a compelling need to clean out the old and anticipate the new. I compulsively worked on this project until it suddenly became too dark to see what I was doing. I didn’t turn on any lights. Instead, I got up from my desk and walked into the living room. I opened the front door and looked outside. The sky was growing steadily darker and the streetlights all began to glow. I stepped out onto the porch and looked at all of the neighbors who were standing in their front yards looking up at the sky with plastic and cardboard glasses strapped to their faces. I didn’t look up. I knew not to stare at the sun without protection. I didn’t purchase any glasses and I hadn’t planned to participate in watching the moon cross in front of the sun. I just wanted to experience the sudden darkness creeping over the Midwest and witness the changes it created in nature.
I just sat on the front porch in the dusk and listened to the crickets beginning to chirp at the early night, even though it was only 1:08 pm on Monday afternoon. A solid peace overcame me as I contemplated my fascination with the dark heavens. Some of my best memories are the moments of seeing shooting or falling stars. I always felt a solid thrill race through me at this phenomenon. I have seen many shooting stars over the years and they have never failed to elicit an unusual excitement within me. It’s the unexpectedness of the heavens suddenly moving and displaying an immense, living essence that thrills me.
And that’s how I wanted to experience the solar eclipse of August 21, 2017. I didn’t want to pay for glasses and “plan” to watch. I wanted the eclipse to ease over me, taking me by surprise as it engulfed me in its unusual occurrence. I wanted the eclipse to unexpectedly thrill me as if I had just seen a thousand shooting stars.
So, now, I sat in the darkness while taking deep breaths and contemplating the universe.
And then, something unusual happened. After sitting in the darkness for a few minutes, there was a sudden snap as if a switch had been flicked and light suddenly began to shoot through the black afternoon. The darkness had been gradual but the light seemed quick.
It made me think of the days when I would sink into a deep depression, an emotion that had the power to weigh me down and pull me under. The feeling would come over me slowly until I felt trapped and could not find a way back out. And then, when least expected, hope suddenly surges through me and immediately pushes me back to life in one swift breathless movement. That’s what the eclipse was like for me.
I sat for a few more minutes as sunlight continued to chase away the night before I finally got up from the front porch and walked back inside the house. And not a moment too soon. Suddenly, with the eclipse passed, thunder echoed through the sky and a hard rain fell to the ground. As lightning sliced the gray clouds, I walked back to my room with our three small dogs running along behind me. The dogs made me laugh as they tripped over each other as they raced into my room and under the bed. They pushed and shoved at each other as they battled for safety from the clashing storm. I snuggled and played with the dogs for a while before shooing them back out of the room. Only Starburst refused to leave. She made me feel unconditionally loved as she cuddled up on my lap as I worked at the computer for the rest of the afternoon.
Later that day, dinner consisted of Chinese food and cake with my brother, Tony, and sister-in-law, Mary, when they came home for work. As we easily talked and laughed together, I couldn’t help contemplating what a great day this had been. And I realized then that as I get older I didn’t need big celebrations or expensive presents or huge crowds of people around me. I just need peaceful moments, times that enhance my spirit and enliven my soul. Without a doubt, this day, Monday, August 21, 2017, was one of the best birthdays I have ever had.