In my blogs I share practical implications of academic research on leadership, management, and the workplace and add a few take-aways of my own. This blog is different.
In 1991 my friend Richard Bilodeau and I backpacked up Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii to see a total eclipse of the sun. The beginning of our adventure is told here at this website. Our adventure continues in our Kindle e-story, Miracle at Red Hill: A Solar Eclipse Adventure. It is the story of our climb up the volcano and Richard's experience of the eclipse. It is Richard’s story. He was at Red Hill; I was farther up the trail at Fire Hill.
On the morning of the 1991 eclipse I sat on the ledge of a 1984 lava flow just off the Mauna Loa trail. The sky at 12,000 feet was clear with just a few high cirrus clouds. In the distance far beyond, a layer of clouds was stealing the eclipse from the lower altitudes. It was a little after 6:00 a.m. I fired up my Peak 1 backpacking stove, made a pot of coffee, and settled in. Everything was perfect. I had expected to watch the eclipse in solitude in a volcanic wilderness.
Around 6:15 I heard a voice calling “John, John, is that you?”
Fifty yards or so in front of me standing in the middle of the lava flow was a park ranger, then another. They figured I’d have a great place from which to view the eclipse and wanted to join me. In the hour leading up to totality, I shared my welder’s glass #14 with the park rangers. We watched as the moon slowly devoured the sun. By 7:15 the mountain air was much cooler; the sky, much darker. Five minutes to totality I began searching the sky earnestly for any sign of the umbra, the moon’s shadow.
I was terribly excited, even anxious. I had never seen a total eclipse of the sun. My heart pounded. About a minute before totality I could see a deep blue shadow stretched across the dim sky. The umbra was falling from the sky! As it fell, it got darker and wider and fell faster and faster. I knew what I was seeing and I was still fearful. On the western horizon toward the summit, framed by indigo tinted with a deep green, a wall of darkness, like a massive black curtain, was racing toward us faster than the mind can comprehend. In an instant we were in the shadow. Turning toward the sun, we saw Baily’s Beads, then the Diamond Ring. There was a hole in the sky with a dancing, shimmering corona. The park ranger of Japanese ancestry yelled, "Yattaaaaaa!" We were full of pure joy.
I later explained to my friend Richard, “Strangely I felt a connection to people through the ages who have stood in the shadow of the moon. I don’t know why. It was as if I were participating in a sacred ritual that had been passed down for millennia.”
I became totally absorbed by everything I could see, and not see. The universe seemed to flow through me. I was so happy I cried. I had to wipe away tears to see the eclipse. It may have been the longest yet shortest four minutes of my life. The eclipse was majestic, absolutely majestic. I completely forgot I had binoculars, such was the moment.
Best wishes for Monday, August 21. When the eclipse is partial, you MUST protect your eyes with solar filters, solar glasses, or welder’s glass. But should you be so fortunate as to stand in the shadow of the moon during totality, bask in the glory above.
Image, “1991 Solar Eclipse,” from my collection of photos.
Both image and this blog © John Ballard, PhD, 2017. All rights reserved.
Co-Author, Miracle at Red Hill: A Total Solar Eclipse Adventure.
Author, Decoding the Workplace, BEST CAREER BOOK Next Generation Indie Book Awards 2016.
Please visit www.decodingtheworkplace.com.