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Totality was totally worth the long drive

With my dad in a hospital bed in late 2022, we planned how the family would gather for the 2024 eclipse at his house in Vincennes, Indiana - not quite a halfway point between my brother's home in Florida and mine in Minnesota. A huge fan of all things outer space, my dad had taken an astronomy class in college and enjoyed dragging kids and neighbors outside to search for constellations, planets and even the space station for the rest of his life.

He didn't live to see 2024, but we did. My daughter, Franny, flew to the Minneapolis airport from Bellingham, Washington and the two of us road-tripped south together in honor of Pete, and because we could.

My hometown was transformed for the occasion, with Main Street closed down for a three-day eclipse-themed party. It was fun to see old friends and even better to talk with Franny for close to 12 hours each way. Another special time was watching lightning streak across the sky in the living room Sunday night, which in turn led to a far-ranging discussion about religion that felt a little like the southern Indiana version of a French salon.

Startling predictions of more than 100,000 people descending upon the town of 16,500 were overblown. Fortunately, so were the predictions of clouds that day. The sky was mostly clear after the early morning fog lifted and temperatures climbed into the 70s. It was downright hot until the skies darkened.

I came out the other side of the 2024 eclipse with a profound appreciation of the sun.

Watching the preamble to totality through my cardboard-framed glasses - as the moon took increasingly larger bites out of the sun - was a strange juxtaposition because the backyard of my dad's house appeared normal. Then the light changed and dimmed. The entire horizon turned sunset-colored. The temperature dropped. The birdsong changed. The dog seemed oblivious.

I watched through my glasses as the last tiny blip of the sun was swallowed up by a perfectly aligned moon.

Suddenly, it was twilight in the backyard and a black void through my glasses.

Totality. I could gaze straight at the sun. It was amazing, weird and a little bit unnerving. For four minutes and five seconds over my hometown, the sun was a black ball in the sky surrounded by a glowing yellow crown that subtly morphed as we watched in awe.

It made me wonder what the ancients thought when the same thing happened to them. A glimmer of connection.

And then the sun, blip, popped out on the other side and it was light. Just that tiny little spot of sun was enough to make the world almost normal again. Phew.

Although it was truly remarkable to experience that moment with Franny and our motley assortment of friends and former neighbors, I really didn't have a kumbaya moment of oneness with the world during the eclipse.

That came on the 12-hour drive home the next day, in an unusually crowded rest area in Illinois, when I just wanted to holler, "Are you all here because of the eclipse?"

But I didn't. Because I already knew the answer.

Contact Pine Knot News editor Jana Peterson at 218-213-1231 or [email protected] or just drop by the office at 122 Avenue C in Cloquet.