Some people never experience a total solar eclipse, but I have had the opportunity to witness two in my adulthood — both in my home state. As a poet and someone who sees the sacred nature of cycles and seasons, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the significance of these events. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether meaning is projected or innate. But honestly, I don’t really think it matters. The solar eclipse has been a major motivator for me to reflect on the state of my life and the progress (or lack thereof) that I have made in the time between totalities. But just as importantly, totality has encouraged me to reflect on where we are as a collective — the pain we’ve inherited in our land and our bloodlines and what we have lost to the progress of man.

Total Eclipse in Carbondale 2017

In 2017, my husband and I were nearing the peak of our success with our lasercutting business. We attended the Comic Convention that SIUC hosted and also set up a vendor booth next to NASA for eclipse weekend. It was an event unlike anything we’d ever experienced, and we were so busy selling our t-shirts and eclipse ornaments that I barely even remember totality.

We sold out of everything the day before the eclipse. We drove a couple hours home that night, spent all night cutting more eclipse ornaments, and fought traffic to return to a line waiting for us on the day of totality. We sold out again within minutes just from the previous day’s pent up demand. When totality hit, we were loading the car, hoping to beat the traffic as hundreds of thousands of people made the exodus out of town. What normally took a couple hours turned into a 6 hour drive in stand-still traffic. One by one, each car went through each stop sign in southern Illinois. It ended up being a very profitable event, but I really didn’t have much of an eclipse experience.

Eclipse Crossroads of America

The cool thing about being in Carbondale in 2017 was that it was the only place that would also be experiencing totality in 2024. My husband and I bought as we drove home from the eclipse that day and also made plans for our 2024 t-shirt design. Following up on our “Blinded by the Light” design that sold out and was featured in the Chicago Sun-Times, we planned a “Hello Darkness My Old Friend” shirt.

The Choice to Participate in Solar Eclipse 2024

By 2024, we actually didn’t even have plans for the eclipse. We spent most of 2023 helping my father-in-law through a double organ transplant so the eclipse just wasn’t top of mind. But as the eclipse approached, we remembered the traffic of 2017. My husband’s small hometown was right in the heart of totality and projected to have tens of thousands of people pass through or stop to experience four minutes of totality — twice as long as Carbondale would have.

We decided to join forces with a local food truck to host a mini festival at the four way stop in town. We figured folks would need something to eat and listen to while they waited for totality and that we could provide entertainment for people who got stuck in traffic heading home.

Realizing we’d be in the heart of the eclipse, we knew this was an opportunity to get back to shirts and laser cut ornaments. Our laser hasn’t been running since COVID, but participating in this event encouraged us to find a cutter who could cut out my new designs affordably and exclusively. We also ordered t-shirts from our old screen printer for the first time in years.

This was our first event since COVID, and we made the decision to participate last minute, primarily based on traffic projections. We knew this small town had nothing to offer folks passing through. The rush of creating designs, managing the creation of products in two different states (from a third), and just generally planning for the event was thrilling. It felt so good to get back to these types of things, and it just felt fated as the eclipse loomed near.

My 2024 Solar Eclipse Totality Experience

Unfortunately, those same traffic projections scared many people from coming to southern Illinois, but the people who did come were really cool.

A mom and her daughters skipped school to visit us from Nashville. They sent updates throughout their journey and spent time with us before and after totality before heading back home. We also had a science teacher from northern Illinois sit behind us while we played our set before totality. We chatted a bit as the eclipse transpired. She’d travelled by herself and just wanted somewhere quiet to experience totality so she’d landed there.

The small crowd meant we actually are still a little bit short of breaking even rather than having a successful event like in 2017. But although it was disappointing financially, we still had a spectacular solar eclipse totality experience.

Everyone else sat in chairs, but I chose to sit cross-legged on the ground. It was so different being somewhere I felt a connection to the land. And here, it isn’t just a connection to the land; it’s a mourning with the land and the people for the constricting and destructive forces that ravage their lives. There’s just a darkness here. It’s evident in the rampant corruption that so often goes unchecked. It’s evident in the acrid smell of oil that fills the air with death. It’s evident in the cutthroat politics and competition that thwart any attempt at community.

And yes, the very soil cries out with blood for the atrocities committed here. I’ve always said Illinois is a cursed land, and this time between totalities has made me wonder if it isn’t really true. We know that Cahokia is the site of a great culture that stretched throughout the region. This land is so fertile, and yet it has been stripped and desecrated with mono-crops. Land that is meant to flood in the spring cannot be kept dry. The rivers and creeks go where they want, and even all these generations later, we cannot quite keep them at bay. And yet, we have diverted them, dammed them, and in many ways, killed them. We have stolen the spirit of the land and the water and denied our connection to them.

Rainbow the day before the eclipse

So as I sat in my husband’s hometown, surrounded by a depressed economy and blatant corruption, I held space for the people and the land. I hoped this would be a transformative event. I couldn’t deny the feeling of cosmic importance that this eclipse brought up in me. Totality passed through my husband’s hometown which in itself is quite rare, but it also passed through both of my maternal grandparents’ hometowns. These three locations are all separated by hundreds of miles, and the path just felt a bit personal to me the more I contemplated it. I grappled with dueling feelings of faith and agnosticism. But ultimately, my skeptic’s mind couldn’t convince my heart that this wasn’t meaningful.

My feelings and beliefs about God are not particularly rigid anymore. But I know I feel something profound and spiritual in music, nature, and communion with others. And as I lean into the seasons and cycles in myself and the earth, I find meaning and balance that improves my life. Perhaps that is one of the main things that has changed in me in this time between totalities — a desire to be in alignment with the earth and an openness to the signs that are in her.

As the eclipse progressed, I felt everything getting darker. I recognized this darkened shade quite early in the event. I did look through some eclipse glasses a few times, but really, that did not even begin to compare to the moment of totality.

My pictures don’t do it justice, and I did take quite a bit of time to just bask in the darkness of the fully eclipsed sun. The temperature dropped at least 15 degrees. But it was the absolute darkness of night and the sight of the moon’s darkness that truly made an impact. This was profundity. This was communion.

The whole town experienced it together. The world stood still. This place where I know so much pain has occurred was painted in the dark light of peace. We all held our breath and marveled together. The sun glowed a white orb around the darkness. It looked just like the good pictures you see and think can’t be real.

I felt as though I had never experienced it before. Surely this didn’t happen in Carbondale. It must have, but with half as long in totality, it is very likely that the darkness was not as deep. I remember looking, but I don’t remember seeing. But also, I just wasn’t settled in peace in a place that mattered to me.

Euphoria washed over me as I attempted to hold onto the image in my mind. I said a brief prayer for the community, the land, my family, and myself. I asked for healing and thanked God and love and the moon and the earth for bringing me to that moment where I could witness such a spectacle.

The feeling stayed with me for a day or two, but even as I felt it rushing through me, I could also feel it fading. Perhaps it is the transient nature of an eclipse that makes the most profound impact upon us. It is a reminder that time is limited, and that a few miles can make the difference between whether or not you experience something in your lifetime. It is a reminder that sometimes things truly do line up perfectly. It encourages us to take action by seeking to emulate that alignment. But it also forces us to let go of the need to control things. There is no denying in the face of the eclipsed sun that we can never emulate alignment in such a cosmic and timeless way.

I wonder when the last time this piece of land experienced totality was. I wonder if there is meaning we do not understand. But regardless, I found an experience that changed me. And I will continue to use it as a catalyst to move me where I want to go and become the woman I want to be.

Want to share your eclipse story? I’m publishing stories about both the 2017 and the 2024 eclipse on Email me at for inclusion. Be sure to include links to your social media accounts and websites if you’d like them featured with your inclusion.

You can also purchase eclipse ornaments and t-shirts there. Eclipse ornaments are $5 each or 3 for $10 and eclipse t-shirts are $20 or 2 for $30.

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