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How To Experience An Eclipse

This Monday afternoon, as many of us fall near the solar eclipse’s path of totality, we’ll step outside, don our safety glasses, and revel in the rarity of the event for the last time until 2044. After a few minutes, most of us will return back to our regular lives—we’ll wrap up our work days, shuttle kids to their after-school activities, start on dinner prep, and move on like nothing happened.

Appreciating a solar eclipse as a scientific marvel is a relatively recent phenomenon. Many ancient cultures feared eclipses, viewing them as a threat to stability or a harbinger of death and illness. In parts of India, where an eclipse is a sacred event, fasting is embraced as a way to spiritually purify oneself; other facets of Hinduism believe that eclipses bring negative energy, according to the Economic Times of India, and sattvic foods—fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, roots, and so on—must be consumed to maintain a healthy energy balance. 

Personally, I've been pretty agnostic on recent eclipses. In 2017, I was on a plane (to, by pure coincidence, St. Louis, MO, which was in the path of totality) and missed it. This week’s event was barely on my radar. 

But I came across a short essay by Ryan Miller, an astrophysicist and eclipse chaser, that might just change my mind. He writes, of following an eclipse all the way from his home in Ireland to Western Australia: “For those brief few moments when the corona appears bright in the sky, all the effort made to experience the totality becomes worth it. You want to soak up every second of it and process every feeling, because it is over all too soon. Once the moon’s shadow has passed you feel both exhilarated and deflated because the next opportunity to experience this sensation again could be years away and on the other side of the world.”

Miller’s enthusiasm reminded me of how I think about food. The sheer joy I feel when I see the first green garlic bunch at my farmer’s market; he slight panic when strawberries come around, knowing that their short season will soon end. His case was akin to how I explain to others why I find it worth the effort to eat locally and seasonally—to slow down and appreciate the beauties the world affords us, whether it’s those rare moments when the moon and the sun overlap, or, as Samin Nosrat once put it, the miracle of a peach. They are full-sensory experiences, for those of us who take the time to feel them for what they are. 



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