The excitement is almost tangible. My family, a dozen strangers, and I all stretched out on picnic blankets in the parking lot of a pawn shop in Middle of Nowhere, Nebraska. We stare fixedly at the sky, murmuring excitedly. I’ve been told that a total solar eclipse is an once in a lifetime event, but I have no idea what to expect.
The air grows colder, and it begins to get darker. There is only a sliver of sun left. Our eyes are fixed on the gradually disappearing sun. “How soon?” inquires a child on a nearby blanket.
“Just a few more minutes,” murmurs her mother from a nearby lawn chair. The sun inches behind the moon as we wait in suspense. Suddenly, it’s gone.
We tear off our glasses. I gasp in amazement. The moon is surrounded by a soft white halo of light. The street lights turn on in the sudden darkness. The traffic on the nearby highway stops, everyone has pulled over to look. “Oh my God! Oh my God! Look at this! Are you seeing this?” cries a nearby man.
“Wow. Wow. I can’t even believe this,” someone else responds. I can’t help but agree; it is a truly stunning sight to witness. I feel a sense of connection with everyone around me, all of us awed by this same beautiful sight. All of us connected by the sense of wonder that nature tends to inspire.
As a society, we tend to put nature on the back burner. We take what’s around us for granted because it’s always been there. However, decreased funding by our current administration and our own ambivalence can cause natural places to disappear. By noticing and making an effort to protect natural places, we not only help the earth, but we also connect to each other.
Everyone, no matter their age, race, gender, or income, should have the opportunity to experience the connection to others and to nature that I experienced. Parks and other natural places foster those connections. By connecting with the world around us and the people who live with us here, we better our planet and ourselves. Our current administration has shown little regard for natural places and the people who take care of them. By donating to or simply visiting national parks and other natural places, we foster important connections with the people and world around us.