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  • Writer's pictureJanet Richey

A Solar Eclipse Story

Updated: Apr 20

Star Log: March 29, 2017

We piled into the Family Ford and drove five hours to one of the most forgettable places on a Pennsylvania map. Marked only by a handful of shuttered factories, Meadville is home to a particular liberal arts college that was on our middle kid’s shortlist. Maybe it was the dirty snow piles that clung to the sidewalks or the giant potholes that could swallow a Volkswagen, but this mom exhaled when our girl chose to continue her education three hours closer to home. Phew! There was no conceivable reason to return to the crumbling town of Meadville. Ever.

Star Log: April 8, 2024

My husband, son, and I piled into the same Ford Explorer sporting an additional 100,000 miles on the odometer, to see the solar eclipse in totality. With a Rand-McNally paper map as a backup in case the sun fried all the satellites, we plugged “Sheetz-Meadville, Pennsylvania” into the GPS. I love it when God takes my absolute statements and turns them into absolute nonsense. 

The legendary Ford that has traveled the distance of the globe 11 times. And to Meadville, twice.

And all the science, I don't understand...

This was my husband’s adventure, so don’t trust anything I have to say about the actual science-y stuff of a solar eclipse. I merely regurgitate the words he says to me when I am only half listening. But in terms of totality, Erie seemed to be in every Pennsylvanian's crosshairs, which was exactly why we wouldn't get that far.

You know, that didn’t really matter to me. I was stuffed in a car with two of my favorite men, with nothing but Pennsylvania scenery and roadside oddities to distract us. The first hundred miles on Pennsylvania 322 West were familiar ones. This allowed for easy conversations that often started with “Remember when,” which reminded me of God’s goodness in our marriage and our family.

That conversation and others like it that day, were part of the solar eclipse package.

With the Penn State University exits in our rear-view mirror, the landscape changed, and the number of cars going westward multiplied. Three hours later, we sized up the business district of Meadville and decided to stick around.

Our first sign. In case you were living in a cave.

We braced ourselves for that possibility.

After a closer examination of the behemoth PennDOT Road Sign Sculpture (it's actually an official attraction you can find on Google Maps), and a pit stop at a hot dog stand that had been in business for 77 years, we made our way to the adjacent Walmart parking lot and settled in. 

The PennDot Road Sign Sculpture depicting the building of the college she didn't go to.

Early scenes of the Walmart parking lot. Photo taken 2:41PM

No. It wasn’t the sandy beaches of Presque Isle State Park or any other natural landscape, but it held its own charm. People trickled in with their RVs and mini-vans packed with multi-generational families, setting up lawn chairs nearby. Others pulled in with their pick-up trucks, sat on the edge of the tailgate, and let their feet dangle. As the time came closer, employees came out of their workplace and joined the crowd, decidedly unconcerned about losing a few sales. Or looting.

Photo taken 3:17PM

As the skies got darker, a part of my brain wandered to a discussion I had with a few of the folks at Living Water. “Will the Rapture happen during the solar eclipse?” It seemed unlikely, we concurred, but looking around, I wondered who in that parking lot might be left behind. And it made me sad.

While most spectators alternated between looking at the sun with their safety glasses and the settings on their cameras, I was taking in all of the human-interest stories unfolding before me. But when the totality took place, you knew it by the oohs, and aahs, the rapid-fire clicking of camera shutters by my own two nerds, and yes…fireworks in the distance. I spun my body around like a flywheel and noticed the sun setting in every direction.

Photo taken 3:18PM

Believing in a Creator allowed me to enjoy our day to its fullest, unencumbered by scientific terms that required effort or a textbook. I don't have to understand it any more than why salamanders seek out vernal pools in the spring to reproduce, or why deciduous leaves burst into colors in the fall. God, in his extravagance, put it there for you and me to enjoy, and to learn more about Him.

Photo Credit: Anna Richey taken at 2:57 PM in New Cumberland.

Photo Credit: Fancy Camera, 3:18 PM, Meadville, PA

We rode most of the way home in companionable silence, perhaps making sense of what we had experienced 200 miles prior. Though facing east, our son looked backward and said “That’s a pretty sunset!” In a roundabout way, we witnessed two sunsets on the same day.

This lesser-known, but miraculous event came to mind as we pulled into our driveway, 503 miles later. Among other things, these verses bring home two opposing realities. God is in control of everything He created, and yet, He heeds and hears the prayers of imperfect people like you and me.

And that is a God worth worshipping.

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1 Comment

Mike Bongo
Mike Bongo
Apr 20

Good stuff Janet! Thank you for the post!

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