I was thinking last week about that day in 2017 when we all looked up— when folks from Oregon clear down to South Carolina stopped their work to watch the total solar eclipse.
It was August and steamy here. Our grandparents came over and sat by fans on the back patio, Dad grilled lunch, and Trent stood in the yard angling a telescope at the sky. Our neighbor named Bob sat in a lawn chair at the edge of his yard, wearing a sunhat and those funny paper eclipse glasses.
It was the first day of school for us, but homeschooling works well alongside creation, so our homework that day was to watch the sky. During the hottest stretch of the afternoon, while we were still waiting on totality, while the sun was taking the shape of a gibbous moon, we watched the local news, too, which told us that whatever we did, to do not take off our paper glasses.
Totality turned the afternoon to twilight. In fact, it got so dark that the crickets started to sing, and do you know something? I took off those darned glasses and looked straight up into a sphere of silver that didn’t scar my eyes, but that did burn itself onto my memory. Folks in Oregon and Idaho Falls looked up, too. Ranchers in Wyoming stopped their ranching, and people in Kansas City shot across town because the eclipse shadowed half the city longer than the other.
This all came to mind because there was another day back in April when everyone seemed to look up— in our town, at least. The news had run tornado watches all week, and they were predicted to hit on Wednesday, so I got my hopes high because I have a dream of seeing a tornado spiral out of the sky (I really did dream it happened one night right out our back window, just over Papa’s pond). I read the sky that day, taking note of the way the clouds crouched lower than usual, and trying my hand at photographing them. The tornadoes didn’t strike anywhere nearby, but the chance of them got folks watching the skies on a Wednesday.
Storms have a way of doing that, have you noticed?
One night a few summers ago, we drove home under a severe weather warning, but instead of turning the van into our driveway, Dad drove all the way to the end of Edgewood Road, up the hill to Davis’s field. The skies were blacker than I ever remember, and they felt close— so close. The yellow houselights across the pasture were like a beacon at the end of a storming sea. We hung our heads out the van windows and let the wind blow our hair into our mouths, and one of the neighbor’s kids came out to see what we were doing.
“Are you guys storm chasers?” he yelled over the wind.
Dad said “No,” but I wanted to yell “Yes,” because we are, aren’t we?
I might not be a meteorologist, but I’ve seen my share of summer storms— the way they bring the sky down to the earth and make the clouds grow angry and breathe fire, and the Psalmists and prophets knew this, too. In fact, they knew the skies better than I do, because their farming and navigation depended on how often they looked up. You could say their worship depended on it, too.
“Lift up your eyes on high and see;
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.”
~ Isaiah 40:26
“He makes the clouds his chariots;
he rides on the wings of the wind.”
~ Psalm 104:3
We’ve sat in lawn chairs waiting for the moon to move in front of the sun, we’ve watched the skies for tornadoes, and that night, we sped to the highest point we could find to get the best seat in the house. We were stalking the clouds and chasing the storm. We were like Moses on the thundering mountain, asking God:
“Please, show us your glory.”