One of my favorite fictional characters—one of the characters I most strongly identify with—is Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. She’s depicted as extremely bookish, and at one point we’re told she’s nervous about flying because it’s “something you couldn’t learn by heart out of a book.”
Yup, that sounds like me. I’ve spent an enormous amount of time studying science, but almost everything I know comes out of books rather than from hands on experience.
And so as the Great American Eclipse of 2017 approached, I felt increasingly nervous, just like Hermione going out for her first flying lesson. I’d read a lot about the eclipse, done pretty thorough research about the kinds of glasses I’d need to buy, and yet… I still felt horribly unprepared.
To make matters worse, the eclipse glasses I’d ordered online seem to have gotten lost in the mail. On the day of the eclipse, they still hadn’t arrived. I had a backup plan, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. I’d read online that you can use a pair of binoculars to project an image of the Sun onto a piece of paper. Again, I’d read about this, but I’d never tried to do it, and I wasn’t 100% convinced this was going to work for me. Some of the instructions I’d read sounded kind of complicated.
And yet to me extraordinary delight, it worked! My hands were a bit shaky, but I was able to project the Sun onto a page of my sketchbook and watch as the Moon slowly moved across the image.
Watching the eclipse turned out to be a highly emotional experience for me. I’ve been going through some things in my personal life, and this was a powerful reminder that no matter what happens, the universe keeps turning. Also, I realized at one point that the binoculars I was using originally belonged to my Dad, so in a sense it was like I got to share the experience with him.
And lastly, for a Hermione Granger-type person like me, this was one of those rare moments when something I read about became real to me. Maybe it wasn’t as exhilarating as learning to fly on a broomstick, but still… Eclipse Day 2017 was a magical experience for me.