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The Dark Side of the Moon

The totality of the sun’s eclipse on April 8, 2024, showed up right on our deck in southwestern Ohio. We were “in the path.” We bought our eclipse glasses, sat in our lawn chairs, and watched as the sun shrank from a gilded cookie with a child-sized bite out of it to a cantaloupe slice to the scantest, perfectly rounded hint of a sliver. The sliver receded to a dot.

And then the lights went out.

It was the quality of that absence of light that fascinated and thrilled. It was not as if a cloud had passed over the sun. It was evening and sunset without the evening and the sunset. It was suddenly chilly. And eerie. We were experiencing something we could not describe. We had feelings we could not name. The outer world seemed to come to a standstill.

And then—after a space of about three minutes, a new sliver—the merest molten speck of sun emerged again. And there was light.

Three minutes! And yet, in those three minutes we saw how impenetrably dark it is on the dark side of the moon.

Light travels in a straight line, a fact we all learned in science class. (And I still remember, which is possibly a more remarkable fact.) It does not wrap around an object with its comforting—or terrifying—brightness and warmth. That’s why we see shadows. I saw the shadows of the deck rails on the floor growing dimmer until the light was entirely gone, and they were gone. Even as we gazed (briefly) at the “corona” of sunlight around the moon, the moon itself, as we saw it on this side, was in deepest darkness. The light was there, available, but it could not penetrate nor illuminate that darkness.

I also learned (mostly from experience) that plants grow toward the light. I made the mistake in my yard in Hungary of trying to train a honeysuckle vine on a fence in the wrong direction from the path of the sun. It wanted to grow toward the sun, not away from it! As much as I tried to train it, it did not thrive. Here in Ohio, my potted asparagus fern has been minding its own business all winter, never showing that it was doing a thing except staying alive. I made sure it had the water it needed and even plenty of light—as much as the winter months gave it—but as soon as the days grew longer and the sun’s light stronger, it shot out new fronds, leaping toward the light with daily observable measure.

If you’ve ever listened to Hayden’s “Creation,” you will remember the breathtaking moment when the choir holds you transfixed with “…and (pause) there (pause) was (pause)—” and bursts on your startled senses with— “LIGHT!”

Light makes all the difference.

Light carries energy, color, and information. (I had to look this up.)

The first information God put into his creation of the universe was light. From light, the unformed, void, and watery darkness got energy and color. From that energy and color, plants popped out of the newly-formed ground, flowers and trees complete in themselves with seeds carrying information from the parent plants that would result in future plants of the same kind. i

Incipient and comprehensive information. From light.

Without that light, we’d be on the dark side of the moon, devoid of energy and color. Devoid of flowers in our gardens. In short, we would not be. A return to the void.

Interspersed with our continual watch, Trent read to me from Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork … In them, he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.”

Except, I’d add, the dark side of the moon.

He also referred to David’s Psalm eight, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him …?”

The moon was in its designated place for those three minutes. Stunning.

After the two hours we spent watching that cosmic display from start to finish, life apparently went back to normal. I brought in the laundry that had been breezily tossing on the clothesline, looked at WhatsApp photos of my littlest granddaughter, roasted a chicken for our supper, watched an episode of “All Creatures Great and Small.”

But I continued to ponder. And I recalled another biblical statement about light, the light of the information about God that he has lavishly given us. If we ignore that information, we eclipse the light.

It is a chill warning:

“If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” ii

As dark as the dark side of the moon.

i See the book of Genesis, chapter one, verses 11 and 12. A description of the watery void is in 1:1,2. See also verse 3.

ii Jesus, The Gospel of Matthew, 6:23

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Yes, it was absolutely like a light switch. But not the usual kind of darkness. Darkness does not travel in a straight line, does it?


What did I like best, or what caught my attention most?

Light travels in a straight line.


Explains why - when my brother talks of the eclipse - he says it is like a light switch.

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