As the first total solar eclipse to be seen coast to coast in the U.S. since 1918 approached, I was excited to learn that the “Great American Eclipse” path of totality would be within driving distance of Atlanta. Talk about an opportunity to produce a cool video – this was it! But where to go? Going north on the interstate was sure to be nightmarish. If we tried that, there was a strong chance we’d end up viewing the eclipse from the side of the highway.
I had an idea after seeing that Elberton, GA was going to be in the path of totality. The Georgia Guidestones are close to Elberton and they are kind of strange, in a good way. I thought the stones themselves would make a great backdrop, and the crowd they’d attract would be colorful and interesting – all the ingredients for a successful video. And for someone like me with an interest in stone circles and megalithic structures it was ideal. Lastly, neither my colleague Jon, nor I had ever been there.
The Guidestones are a mysterious stone monument erected in 1980 by an anonymous man known only as “R.C. Christian”. They attract visitors year round, people searching for the interesting, the esoteric, the weird – five huge granite slabs, each towering over 19 feet at the top of a lonely Georgia hill, looming like inscrutable stone sentinels. The faces of the slabs are inscribed with an enigmatic and vaguely menacing message about environmental stewardship and the earth’s ideal population (500,000,000) among other things in eight different languages.
While enjoying our non-highway route through the Georgia countryside, I was still a little apprehensive as we approached our destination. What if we were wrong and no one showed up? What if that crucial part of the plan didn’t work out?
It turned out there was no reason to worry – a crowd of 300 or so people were at the stones to view the eclipse. It was a great cross section of humanity covering a broad spectrum of hues and types – people young and old, male and female, student and professional, astronomy enthusiasts and New Age believers – all of them slightly giddy in the expectation of witnessing something rare and mysterious.
The stones themselves were initially a little disappointing. I’d thought they would seem bigger and more impressive. But the longer we were there, walking around them, reading the inscriptions, and seeing other people do the same, the bigger and more dramatic the stones came to be. There was something about them.
All those in attendance for the spectacle had claimed a spot somewhere near the stones. There was a party atmosphere, a carnival air that was contagious and predisposed you to look upon everyone favorably, as friends and fellow passengers on the planet.
As the crowd counted down, I watched through my eclipse glasses as the moon took a bigger and bigger bite out of the sun’s disc. The couple of minutes of totality were impressive – the sky darkened almost to night, and we were able to look up with the naked eye and see the sun’s corona streaming out from behind the black disc of the moon. The clouds on the horizon were lit pink and orange like the light of a fading sunset. You could hear the oohs and ahhs of the crowd as they witnessed the rare and dramatic astronomical alignment. Afterwards everyone was smiling and happy – no one had been disappointed.
We had decided on the Guidestones as a great place to shoot a video about the eclipse, but it was also just a great place to be. I did a good bit of research beforehand and one note that kept coming up was to make sure and experience it as a human being and not through your camera lens. We did that and it was awesome. Jon put his camera down and like everyone else there, we both stared into the sky and saw a miracle of measurements that cause the moon to perfectly cover the sun. I thought of all the people throughout history that have witnessed the exact same thing as we did. What were they thinking about? Maybe us.