How To Find Graditude In Cloudy Disappointment?

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Dear Readers, 

In place of a question from one of you, I hope you’ll allow me to the opportunity to answer my own question related to my experience with Monday’s eclipse: 

What do you do when you’re disappointed that you missed out on one thing, but grateful at the same time for the thing you have? 

My family, like so many families, piled in our car on Sunday and drove an absurd number of hours with the goal of seeing a total eclipse. And man, were we close. 

We could have gone to Texas, or Arkansas, with their predicted sunshine and clear skies. We could have followed the cloud cover maps the morning of April 8 and driven somewhere, anywhere, with a better-predicted view. I’ll even admit to a bit of glee when Texas had storms predicted and Buffalo still had a chance of clear skies. But, we’d driven from Philadelphia to Buffalo, and that’s where we stayed, in my parent’s front yard, with lawn chairs and eclipse glasses, with my 11-year-old screaming “eclipse” every time the sun peaked through the clouds. 

More than once, we heard, “It’s Buffalo, what do you expect? But really, no one knew what to expect. Through the laughing and the checking of weather apps and the kids playing catch while we waited and not knowing what exactly we were waiting for, we sat there, together, and thought about the world. And at 3:18, that world went dark. Truly dark. Porchlights came on around us. Everything changed. My 11-year-old was near tears. My 12 year old who never stops talking sat in (near) silence. The kids, my spouse and I, my parents, their neighbors, everyone in this cloudy path, experienced something surreal, strange, and not what we were seeking but nonetheless, something marvelous.

During the car ride there, we had talked about what blessing, if any, we thought we should say upon seeing the eclipse. Part of how I know that this experience awed us beyond measure was that, in the moment, none of us thought to say anything at all, really, besides some version of “wow.” And while blessings often provide a formula for just how to say wow (or thanks, or any number of other visceral expressions), the raw feeling of the moment surpassed even those formulas made for times when words fail us.  

But while words may have failed me on Monday, since then, all I’ve wanted was words: to hear other people’s experiences, to try to name the feeling elicited by that darkness, to give words and blessings and awe and concreteness to something completely beyond my grasp. 

On the way home, in every rest stop and gas station we saw tired, happy families, many wearing some version of an eclipse souvenir t-shirt. At one rest stop, a missionary invited me to church. At another, a parent said to me, “It was cloudy, but…” 

A hundred feelings exist in that “but.” A million moments of synchronization led to each part of that statement. I wish I’d seen the thing that everyone is posting pictures of, that people literally chase around the world. I do, I really wish I’d seen it, and I still hope to some day. But I also know I will keep this memory close forever: the cloudy, uncapturable, elusive experience that no one was looking for, but that I wouldn’t trade for anything. 

Be well,