Total Eclipse and Real Community

My sister Julie and I made a plan to hike in the Great Smoky Mountains. During the planning stage, we discovered a total eclipse would be within our reach.

Julie spent hours on research, buying maps, and NASA approved eclipse glasses. Fontana Dam was the perfect spot for us to capture this unique event. Our added bonus was that across the Dam was the Appalachian Trail.

I read an article on how to set my camera to shoot the eclipse. I had my doubts, being such a novice. What is raw image anyway? And how do I use it?

Before daylight we took our gear, water and food and headed towards Fontana Dam. We heard about the possibility of heavy traffic, but we were fortunate to find very little.

We came upon a great overlook of the lake.

Fontana Lake

I was pointing,” Oh, oh, oh!”

Julie used her quick driving skills to pull off. There we watched the sun rising over Fontana Lake, and the hazy Great Smoky Mountains in the background.

There was an over-eager young man with a camera lens so enormous, I thought he’d need a strap to hold it up. He flitted back and forth shooting the sunrise, and speaking out words of glory.

We met again at the next overlook and I approached him, hesitating…oh he’s a professional, and I such a novice. I never want to bother people…

We made introductions and I asked if he might look at my camera settings to see if they would do to capture the moments we were all waiting for. He said they would do, but gave me a great tip, which I began using right away.

Julie and I drove a short way towards the dam and found a small parking lot at the top of the hill. Just two or three spots were left. We grabbed ours and found a few people had spent the night in cars or slept on the ground.

The energetic photo-tip friend, Shaun was just two cars down, already shooting Fontana Lake.

After our breakfast of hardboiled eggs and cold pre-cooked bacon we loaded our backpacks with food, water and my camera. I strapped a tripod onto my backpack and we headed downhill to the dam.

Surrounding us was a magnificent lake, calm and blue under the hazy mountains. As we anticipated the hour, more people began arriving. The air was full of energy as we became a new community of people anticipating the glory. We would share with total strangers, a great event which would never happen again the same way.

There, planted in the middle of the bridge over the dam was our photo-tip friend, Shaun. Already unloading his travel wagon, he sat in a chair with an umbrella attached. Other photographers began setting up around him.

My sister and I set up across the bridge and watched boats arrive on the lakeside. With boats anchored; some folks took a swim while they waited.

I taped my filter paper on the lens and attached it to the tripod, feeling a bit uncomfortable as I looked for the sun in my view finder. Moments passed, and our photo-tip friend, Shaun found us.

“I just want to see if you’re all set up.”

Shaun, taken by Julie

I thanked Shaun and began searching again for the sun in my view finder. I was remembering the raw image and wondering how it really worked.

More folks gathered in an amazing array of the young and old. People came with hi-tech telescopes, fancy cameras, and cell phones. There were children with parents, hikers off the A.T., and friendly dogs. They came bearing chairs, umbrellas, blankets and tent-like covers to shade from the hot sun.

Watching the day turn to night.

The energy was remarkable and all I could think about was how God’s glory brought together young and old, Asians, Scandinavians, Scots, and others to our melting pot of Americans.

Crazy me in awe!

Did these folks plan their vacation and fly over the pond for this event? Surely these people shared many religious beliefs or possibly none at all, but we had this one thing in common.

As the moon began to shade the sun and we saw a crescent began to appear, voices began exclaiming aloud. We smiled, and we looked around to see the expressions of others; the children (some bored), and the sharing went on…

In the sweating heat we waited, looking occasionally for the moment of total eclipse. My sister snapped shots of people watching. Serious photographers kept their eyes glued to their cameras.

The climax; when the sun was totally covered, brought awe-struck voices in unison. I looked at my sister and tears were in her eyes. I tried to speak, but nothing came out but a croak. It was God’s glory!

On the outside was a thin distinct white ring. Surrounding the ring white lines appeared in all sorts of shapes. The air was strange. We looked around us and it was dark, but not. The “darkness” was not dark. Venus and stars were visible in the half-light. It was eerie, but not, and looking back to the moon covered sun, I wanted to weep at God’s glory.

The diamond effect appeared, and as a community we began to put our glasses back on.

Someone in the crowd cried, “Do it again!”

There we were in a place unfamiliar to most of us, sharing in the glory of God. I wondered, did anyone know it was Creator God? Was it only a fluke of nature for some? Did anyone see the eclipse-glory and believe there might be a God?

This one magical event in history brought us together, and we shared our joy. There was no distinction of race or color. No one decided to give any opinions or demands. No one declared what race or color could attend. We were people…humans made by the true God.

We lingered, not wanting to leave. We took photos for other families and they did the same for us. We talked of the awesome sight and marveled.

How could such a large group of strangers share so easily, but for wanting the exact same thing? We sought this eclipse, and found unity with strangers.

We close ourselves off from each other with our busy lives, and put God away for when we really need him.

Is it possible that God wanted to be noticed? Did he want his children; his creation to look up?

And that amazing eclipse was just a little thing for him to do.



  • You may wonder why I didn’t post my eclipse photos. They are still raw footage in my camera card waiting for a day when I get back home and make sense of them.







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