As an eclipse chaser, I spend my time counting down the days, hours and minutes to the next time I can be in the Moon’s shadow. It is an incredibly important part of my life, and in many ways eclipses have become a more meaningful marker of time for me than calendar years. I know where I will be for each of the eclipse years of totality.
Like all eclipse chasers, I had planned big things for the total eclipse of December 14, 2020. This was to be the eclipse with clear skies, broad landscapes, and cultural delights viewed from Chile or Argentina, and I had set my sights, yet again, on Argentina.
Not chasing this eclipse was difficult for me personally, as it meant that I had to miss my 13th total eclipse. However, this is not really about me at all – there is a much bigger picture here. The tour I was leading was not able to proceed, and as a result 65 people had their plans canceled; and very sadly the tour company I worked with was forced to cease trading due to the situation in Argentina. These circumstances were all outside of my control, and were consequences of this pandemic. This was the impact only in my immediate circle related to eclipse travel – every one of you will have your own story of how this pandemic has affected your life and the loss you have faced.
Now with less than a week to go for the next total eclipse, I feel at peace knowing that I am not chasing this eclipse. Not traveling is a sacrifice I am willing to make for the greater good, and most eclipse chasers have grounded themselves for 2020. However, a few hardy international chasers remain committed to the cause – desperately seeking updates and guidance on how to get into the path of totality in South America despite the many remaining obstacles of quarantine, closed borders, test requirements, and traveler restrictions.
If I can slip into my alternate role as a psychologist here… what we are currently experiencing more than any time in my life is a complete lack of control. If we try to gain control over things we have no control over, we are just left with anxiety. So we have a choice – those who can be flexible in our thinking know that when we have no control, it is better to roll with it, and focus on the things we DO have control over.
Some, however, will find it difficult to see they have a choice, and will do all they can to stay in control. In this situation, without any control, all they can do is arm themselves with information and continue to plan. Unfortunately, the pandemic response varies considerably worldwide, and even within each country, state, and region information changes almost by the hour. Keeping up-to-date for chasing this eclipse in South America is exhausting – what is promised on one day can be easily overridden on a different day by some other authority. And when we become so focused on the end goal, we lose sight of the fact that when we travel in such an environment we expose not only ourselves, but others – our eclipse chaser friends, other travelers, locals we meet, officials on the ground, our hosts, and then our loved ones when we return – to greater risks. And ultimately – we still have no control.
If you are still outside of South America, then it is ok to give yourself permission to not travel and chase this eclipse. This is not a sign of failure or defeat, but a sign of strength as you are making a choice. With this comes a sense of peace and acceptance.
If you are already within South America – then do enjoy the eclipse safely, knowing that chasers around the world will be with you, watching from afar and sharing the sense of wonder and awe with you. Those already living within the path of totality are considered the lucky ones, where all they have to do on eclipse day is go outside and look up. I will be watching online, and plan to be part of a Slooh live broadcast from Chile, talking about how this year’s world events have affected us eclipse chasers.
Post-pandemic eclipse chasing will be with a renewed sense of gratitude for having the freedom and flexibility to travel in the future. Until then, 2020 will be remembered by the eclipse chasing community as the one we had to learn to let go.