Remember the great solar eclipse of 2017? To me, as remarkable as the sight in the sky was the sight of the crowds of people staring up at it. For a few hours, we pushed aside work stress and political mess and looked up into the heavens.
On a fraction of the scale, that’s what I saw at the coast last week. Every morning, stalwart bands of people of all ages stopped whatever else they were doing (mostly sleeping, I imagine) and gathered along the beach to watch the sun come up. The sunrises were glorious, but the knowledge that so many other humans were paying homage to them was uplifting, too.
We are so used to controlling everything around us that it’s got to be healthy to stop every so often to recognize the forces in the universe we can’t control. What time the sun actually slips over the horizon, for instance. Modern-me, I caught myself glancing at my phone to check what time the weather app said the sun was supposed to come up. I even felt a burst of impatience when I thought it was taking just a little too long to meet the electronically-promised deadline.
I also realized after a day or two of pre-dawn walks along the shore that I didn’t really have to walk east as far and fast as I could go: my efforts weren’t going to make the sun appear any faster. I’d see the dawn just as quickly if instead of hurrying far down the beach, I plunked down in front of our condo with a mug of coffee.
You might wonder why, on vacation, get up before six instead of sleeping in. There’s just something about trying to catch the moment when that tiny orange ball appears. There’s also the reality that once it does, it’s a only a short time before that lovely, sought-after phenomenon becomes a nemesis: blazing, eye-straining, skin-blistering light and heat which no amount of sunscreen, hats, and umbrellas can control, nature once again proving that it can’t so easily be tamed.
And if we needed any more proof of that, we’re watching Hurricane Michael as it barrels towards the Gulf Coast right about where we were last week. I’m remembering the miles of cars lined up on the interstate, Bonnaroo-style, waiting to turn off onto the state highway that heads south to the coast. All those months of planning and preparation to get there, and– so much for fall break. So much for our assumption that the natural world will be just where we want it to be, as we want it to be, when we want it to be.
We don’t run the world, and isn’t that a good thing.
Meanwhile, to those in the hurricane’s path, I’m thinking about you today.