‘The Hand of God’
Solar eclipse evokes humble reflections
By John Hales
Aug. 23, 2017
Hundreds, probably thousands, of Sanpete residents beheld the solar eclipse with “ahhhs” and awe on Monday, where locally the celestial event was seen at 88-90 percent of totality.
And if words like “awe,” “beheld” and “celestial” make it sound like a sacred event rather than a scientific one, well, there’s a reason for that—especially for Sanpete residents who traveled elsewhere to view the eclipse in its 100-percent totality.
“I wasn’t prepared for it to be a religious experience,” tweeted Fairview resident, and Utah’s lieutenant governor, Spencer Cox, who saw the eclipse from Alturas Lake, about 120 miles north of Twin Falls, Idaho. “Totality is something impossible to explain. I thought 99 percent was amazing—and then it hit. …I cried.”
Cox retweeted someone else’s comment that, “I told my kids it was like seeing the hand of God.”
Back at home in Sanpete, Ephraim resident Matthew Hebert was less transcendental about it all—but what else would you expect from a 10-year-old? “It’s cut out like a cookie,” said the boy as the moon bit out the first chunk of light from the sun shortly after 11 a.m. Monday.
Hebert and seven other youngsters watched the eclipse from a porch of a home on Ephraim Main Street, enjoying the astronomical event even through the tuft of clouds that obscured the view.
“The one day that clouds had to be in our way, and it had to be today,” said 14-year-old Kaitlyn Ogden.
At a park behind Ephraim Public Library, a sparsely attended viewing party watched the moon’s passage between earth and sun, using eclipse-viewing glasses provided by the library.
The fewness of people was not an accurate indicator of the interest, though, said Library Director Lori Voshell.
The library, as did Gunnison Civic Library, received about 1,000 glasses from STAR_Net (Science‐Technology Activities and Resources Library Education Network).
Voshell said she distributed about 700 of the glasses. “I’m tickled with the turnout,” she said.
At first, the cloudy skies over Ephraim worried her. “I was afraid we would have to turn on the NASA live feed,” she said. But, “Even with the cloud cover, we were able to see it.”
Sterling resident Linda Pledger reported clear-as-clear-could-be skies which were “deep, deep blue” over Idaho Falls, from where she called the Messenger to report the eclipse in the 100-percent–totality zone.
“It was amazing,” Pledger said, describing an almost surreal scene during the two or so minutes of full eclipse.
“The shadows were gone, but it wasn’t like a sunset,” she said. “It just felt so unnatural”—a term she would say several times during her call to the newspaper—“the way it got dim, it got so dim. We did see a few stars. It was thrilling. … It was a different kind of a light. Then all of a sudden the temperature dropped. … Words cannot describe things of that nature, sometimes.”
It evoked for Pledger, as it did for Lt. Gov. Cox and likely many, many others, stirrings from a higher plane.
“It’s a very spiritual experience. I think the sun and the moon are our greatest witnesses not just of times and seasons and everything, but of the majesty of God and the universe. And to see them come together like that—it makes you think about a God, and creation.
“It just makes you—” she paused. “You kind of see yourself in a different perspective. …It does make you feel your smallness.”
All Sanpete residents will be able to experience something like that in 2045; that’s the year that the county will entirely be within the 100-percent zone of the next total solar eclipse in our part of the world.