The day of the 2017 solar eclipse, I attended an early afternoon wine tasting at Philadelphia's Tinto, a Spanish tapas restaurant from Jose Garces. After two educational and tasty hours drinking wines of Chile, I stepped out of the restaurant just as the eclipse was at its strongest.
I headed toward Rittenhouse Square - one of five original small square parks in Philly planned by city founder William PennRead - to walk through it on my way to the train, and it didn't take me long to notice a different vibe in the city as I walked along. Instead of trying to describe it again, I'll simply copy what I wrote that day on Facebook.
Aug 21, 2017 3:14pm
I am never disappointed when I chose to take Patco into Philly instead of drive. I always discover something along my walk from the train to my destination. Today, walking through Rittenhouse Square as the eclipse began was a special treat. Instead of everyone hurrying along, heads down, earbuds in, darting to their destination, people stood in groups - inviting strangers to look through their glasses or homemade pinhole projectors, welcoming others into a communal experience. I hadn't thought about the eclipse much, except to warn my boys not to look directly at it, and I certainly hadn't thought of it as being an event that would connect people. And it occurred to me as I walked along, people offering me unsolicited peeks through their glasses, that I have no idea if these generous Philadelphians share my faith, my politics, my social causes - for a period of time today, we were all on the same side, the side of the wonder of creation.
And right there, you have the connection between the eclipse and wine - community. At the tasting that day, I came together with people I didn't know - and a few I did know. I met new people and shared a wonderful wine experience with them for two hours. We talked, we learned, we laughed. I collected a few business cards and did connect with a couple of the people I met that day after the tasting. But, there were people at that tasting I will probably never run into again. Yet, we shared an experience together that connected us.
The same can be said for the eclipse. I will never again see the man who invited everyone who walked by to look through his pinhole projector box or the women on Locust Street who shared their glasses with anyone who asked for a peek. They were the reason I got my one and only look at the eclipse as it was happening. Most of people standing shoulder to shoulder in Rittenhouse Square - looking up at the eclipse together - did not know each other, but in that one moment they were connected by a communal experience.
We live in a very fractured world right now. What divides us sometimes seems like it's going overshadow what connects us. But when I'm drinking wine with others, that dividing shadow doesn't seem so big. And on the day of the eclipse - when the moon blocked the sun and created natural, beautiful shadows - the shadows brought people together and reminded me that there is plenty of hope that the shadow of divisiveness will not tear apart our world.