Last weekend, like millions of other people across the western United States and Asia, we spent Sunday evening camped out with solar glasses, waiting for the solar eclipse.
As we planned for our eclipse viewing, however, we made a small decision that came to have a big impact on our experience of the eclipse.
We chose to stay home.
My sister had come down to visit us for the eclipse (as we live a mere 13 miles from one of the “sweet spots”), and we’d originally intended to view the eclipse from a field near a local middle school where telescopes would be set up and where we’d be guaranteed a large, flat viewing space. Instead, given the realities of five young children, we decided just to watch the eclipse from my front yard.
I worried initially that the large old trees in front of our house would block our view of the eclipse. They didn’t; instead, they gave us something spectacular to see. Did you know that the sun, filtering through the leaves of trees, casts its own shape through the shadows? I didn’t know that–until last weekend.
As the eclipse progressed, we alternated between watching the black disc slide across the sun (through our viewing glasses, of course), and watching the crescent shaped sun “shadows” climb up the brick walls of my home.
By the time we hit the “ring of fire” stage, we could see perfect circular discs of sunlight speckling everything: the lawn, the house, the children. Had we stayed with our original choice of location, we would have been in a treeless field, and we would have missed out on these eclipse “shadows.”
I’ve been thinking about this experience in the days since then, wondering how many times in my life I’ve been so focused on the main event–like the solar eclipse–that I miss or don’t adequately treasure these small exquisite moments. Some of you are probably much better about living in the moment than I am, but I find that too often my energy and attention is concentrated on the next big thing, the next hurdle in my life: a trip, a child’s performance, a writing milestone. And I forget to take the time to simply look around me. That day, the shadows were behind us–if we’d focused all our attention on the eclipse, we would have missed them entirely.
What about you? Do you struggle to “stay in the moment”? What kind of small–but exquisite–experiences have you had because you took your focus away from something “big” to focus instead on what was right in front of you?