Next week will begin with a total solar eclipse, an eclipse that is occurring only over the United States. The last time that a U.S.-only total eclipse took place, interestingly enough, was in 1776 and the last total eclipse, witnessed both here and in Canada, was 40 years ago.
The eclipse has created a lot of excitement, both inside the scientific community and in the general public. People are flocking to parts of the country where the view will be better and there has been a run on solar eclipse glasses that will make it safe for you to watch this phenomenon take place.
Schools and libraries, planetariums and science museums, all are holding special programs and viewing events and making this day one that folks will remember, especially children. It’s an opportunity for something that is a “once-in-a-lifetime” kind of experience.
Time magazine described the eclipse as “the moon has nothing special planned for Aug 21. It will continue doing what it’s done for more than 4 billion years—insensibly circling Earth.” They further write that “The sun has nothing special planned either. It will sit where it must sit and burn as it must burn to sustain the flock of planets and moons and asteroids and comets that have orbited it for so long.” Yet they go on to say “That’s how things go in the clockwork cosmos, and yet once in a while, there’s poetry in the machinery. Once in a while, the wheels click in synchrony and the indifferent universe offers up a rare spectacle.”
We will be thinking and talking about the eclipse with our residents on Monday. We’ll be discussing the science of the moon appearing to extinguish the sun and we’ll be talking about what they remember about past eclipses and whether they watched them. Then we’ll be heading outside, for those who choose, to watch the eclipse through special glasses and maybe even some handmade pinhole cameras.
That’s the technical part and it’s wonderful that we’ll be participating with so many others in this special moment. But I can’t help but think about the eclipse as a symbol, as I know so many are. There are those who have spoken and written about this darkness to light as a unifying uplift to a country that is divided. I prefer to see it as a perfect symbol of older adults, those with whom we work and the older population in general.
As our friends at Time magazine tell us, the moon and the sun are doing “nothing special,” rather just doing what they do every day, every hour, every minute. So, too are our elders doing what they do every day, living their lives to the best of their ability. At times, the moon will block the sun in every life, and especially those of older people, hiding their light behind disease or disability. Yet as the sun still exists behind the moon, so too does the essence of each of our elders. It is up to us to look for those rays that are not entirely hidden, to watch for those moments when there is more light than darkness to see, to remember that each of us still is our own poetry. What matters is that as care partners and loved ones, we seek it, we recognize it and we cherish it.