Home Commentary Totality



Mary Quilici Aumack
Executive Director
Catholic Community Foundation of Santa Clara County

The great solar eclipse of 2017 was highly anticipated by millions. The big question: Should we go to a place where we could experience “totality?” One of my friends said she’s pretty sick of that word. She of course did not venture to the magical band where the moon totally covered the sun for a brief but spectacular time.

Doug and I wanted to make a road trip out of it and experience totality. Well, truthfully, Doug wanted to go and I was rather ambivalent. Then, we saw an interview with an astronomer. He said, “on a scale of 1-10 of incredible natural phenomena, a partial eclipse is 3-4, and a total eclipse is a MILLION.” That was it; we put ourselves on the path of totality. We got our special glasses and made reservations to camp on a ranch in eastern Oregon. I must admit that as the time got closer my anticipation mounted, and I was rather joyfully looking forward to the experience.

We camped with another couple that had done all the research and found this beautiful, traffic-free oasis for us. We arrived the day before the eclipse and set up camp; surrounded by the beauty of a vast valley, punctuated by small campsites overshadowed by very large telescopes.

Camped next to us was a young astronomer who invited us to view sunspots through his telescope – pretty cool!

The morning of the eclipse we packed our gear, and set out our chairs to ready ourselves for the big event – TOTALITY. We remembered to have jackets nearby because we had been told that it would get cool.

As the time approached (totality for us was roughly 10:25 a.m.), the sky began to change, very subtly darkening. Flocks of birds flew quickly by. We were of course facing east toward the rising sun. Periodically, we looked west. The view to the west was spectacular. It appeared like a huge gathering storm, dark and swirly (“swirly,” of course, is a deep scientific technical term).

At the moment of totality, we removed our glasses and stared directly at this incredible phenomenon. By now you’ve most probably seen pictures. I didn’t try to take a photograph, just sat back to experience it. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen. There was a quiet, and a cooling, and a collective intake of breath from hundreds of campers spread across this vast ranch.

In all of this for me, was God.
The Heavens are telling the Glory of God,
And the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Psalm 19:1

Through fog, haze or drizzle, or coming through clouds, you can sometimes “see” the rays of the sun. When our daughter Kacey was little, we called that “God talking.” Kacey is 33 now, and I sometimes call her when we’re on a road trip to let her know that God is talking, through the clouds.

God speaks to us through the roar of thunder, the quiet night sky. God speaks to us through the love of family and the support of our neighbors. And yes, God speaks to us through the ineffable experience of a total eclipse.

A familiar response for me is gratitude. So, I say “thank you for totality,” and for the gift of the experience. May I always marvel at the vast greatness of nature and have deep gratitude for the source.

If you’d like to talk about the eclipse, or about providing FOREVER VALUE for your parish, give us a call at (408) 995-5219.