One moment we were watching a bat flitter across the sky while nocturnal insects sang in the background.
Then — complete darkness. A bit of warning as we felt the air cool a few degrees in anticipation. We watched a corona appear overhead; a celestial occurrence billed as a once-in-a-lifetime event.
As it was created and then moments later was diffused, we sat somewhat in awe.
We left the conservation area where we had spent a few almost magical hours and traveled to the small Ozark town of Caledonia, itself not far from the line of totality.
At 1:18 p.m., the dusk-to-dawn lights had illuminated the streets and sidewalks of the quaint little village. At 1:19, the sun had regained its supremacy over the mid-afternoon August sky.
Visitors and locals alike had jointly enjoyed the celestial display. Visitors like Aileen Zebrowski and Kate Martin from Madison, Wisc., recent college graduates whom had ventured down to Missouri to view the eclipse. They were eager to share this prior to transitioning from student to professional; careers taking them soon to separate states.
Locals like Bonnie from the Old Village Mercantile who had served the aforementioned guests fresh-made ice-cream; Ava Marie who was serving barbecued ribs and pulled pork at the Caledonia Barbecue just up the street. That business was open especially for the event; the Mercantile had an in-house ice-cream flavor named for the occasion. The mood was more celebratory than commercial.
People didn’t need expensive seats or equipment; no waiting lists or hard to secure invitations. A lawn chair and $3 glasses. A cooler, cold drinks and a few snacks. People reveling in groups or communing with nature privately. Acquaintances made and friendships renewed; strangers and families creating co-memories together.
Americana at its best.
This “once-in-a-lifetime” manifestation is again scheduled to visit our Ozarks in seven more years. I only hope that my health and fortune permit me to be there once again.
I also wish my company, and those others I am privileged to encounter, are of the same merit as those with whom I shared this one.
(Rick Mansfield is a seasoned storyteller and writer, and is always looking for new audiences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)