Calgary Herald

Power of connection: Lessons from the eclipse for Earth Day

- JOHN PENTLAND Rev. John Pentland is the lead minister at Hillhurst United.

Recently I was having coffee with a friend in Toronto and I asked him if he saw the April 8 eclipse. In Alberta it had seemed like a non-event.

There was a deep pause before Brad nodded and blurted out, “I cried.”

I sat back in my chair, stunned. I was completely taken aback that his response to seeing the eclipse was tears.

He went on to tell me how he had spent the day. He got up in Toronto early that morning to drive even further south in Ontario. His plan was to park on a side road and watch the eclipse alone, on the hood of his car.

However, as he sat there something came over him and he decided that he needed to be with others to watch this event. He jumped back into his car and made his way to a public beach just down the road from where he was on Lake Erie. As other people arrived to get a good view of the eclipse, there was both nervous chatter and excitement. He searched for a spot to sit and eventually nestled himself against a rock and wrapped himself in a blanket in the cool Ontario spring air to await the eclipse.

“At about 3:15 p.m. it happened,” he recalled. “The moon completely covered the sun, and it became much darker and colder. People screamed and shouted all along the shoreline. Birds went quiet. I heard crickets chirping in the woods behind us. And then all of a sudden, the bright diamond ring around the moon — the corona, appeared. It was safe to see it without protective glasses.

“You could see bright tendrils of white diamond colour coming off of the circular corona. It was absolutely incredible. The crowd went quiet. I suddenly teared up and started to cry. I am not sure why,” Brad explained.

We paused and looked at each other and I asked him why he thought he cried.

“I think I sensed that I was seeing something for the first time, and likely the only time in my life. But I think it was also the sense that I was seeing this with other people, even if I didn't know any of them, and I could hear the collective excitement and wonder. We were united.” I sat in silence as he continued. “And then suddenly, I heard a young kid, a couple hundred yards down the beach shout, `You guys, look at the sun! Look what the sun is doing! LOOK!' It was breathtaki­ng. And then I realized how happy I was that I wasn't seeing this by myself off on a dirt road somewhere. I wasn't alone and that mattered most.”

This encounter got me thinking about Earth Day (Monday, April 22) and I wondered: What if every day was like the day of an eclipse? What if we saw the world around us with such attention and perspectiv­e? What if we saw the outdoors as something we would see both for the first time and perhaps the last? What if we experience­d the desire to be alone in creation and the deep need to share the experience with others? What if we had eyes of wonder and reverence when we looked up, down and all around in creation?

Astronomer and artist Tyler Nordgren writes, “An eclipse changes you. Our eyes sparkled as we talked about the sense of connection. It was a connection not just to one another and those around us but to the universe. It was a connection made tangible as during the totality the sun and moon were aligning not just with the Earth, but literally with each of us. And that connection, while individual, was also communal.”

We are living in a deeply disconnect­ed time. We are experienci­ng loneliness, disconnect­ion, isolation and separatene­ss that has both human and natural consequenc­es. I think what we long for most is connection. We yearn to belong to something greater than ourselves. We need to know we aren't alone in this universe and we need to know that the plants, animals and people are our companions on this journey. The eclipse, for a few moments, bridged that disconnect­ion. It resulted in tears.

I believe an awareness of this deep sense of connection is what will save us all. It is an awareness of connection that will enable, force and drive people to care for the planet every day as though it were an eclipse.

When we experience a wonder such as an eclipse, we realize we are on sacred ground. We experience not just our smallness, but our connection to everything and everyone — our connection to a largeness that results in change.

This weekend there will be many experts who will offer tips on how to alter the course of climate change. We are grateful for their wisdom and intellect; it is necessary. But change also requires a change of heart — a Total Eclipse of the Heart, as the song says. Perhaps it begins with the heart.

The eclipse taught me that the only true way change will happen is when we see our connection to one another and to creation. Every speck is interconne­cted. When we know this, in our bones, we will sacrifice and we will work together to save this planet.

So, what do I recommend you do for Earth Day 2024? Step outside, alone or with another, and fall on your knees with reverence. Touch the earth as though it was your first and last knowing. Then stand, look up at the sky and delight in its mystery and wonder, as though it was your first and your last. Then, go tell someone why it matters. Perhaps this awakening will bring a tear to your eye and perhaps it will spark the connection that will, in the end, change everything forever.

 ?? DAN JANISSE ?? Many people who took in the April 8 total solar eclipse felt a deep reverence for nature and kinship with those around them.
DAN JANISSE Many people who took in the April 8 total solar eclipse felt a deep reverence for nature and kinship with those around them.

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