One of my favorite songs is “I Hope You Dance.” Its homespun, optimistic wishes should inspire even the hardest of hearts. Give faith a fighting chance, feel small beside the ocean and dance.

Dancing, in this context, means taking a few chances, pushing on and making the right choices. Here’s an easy choice for you to make on Aug. 21: Play hooky.

It’s eclipse day. Knoxville and surrounding areas are in the path to get a good slice of darkness. Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas has made the decisions for many families a little easier by canceling school for the day. Now it is up to parents and grandparents and working guys and gals to look at their calendars, their Paid-Time-Off days and decide whether the eclipse is worth it or not.

I know that not everyone can make a choice to just take the day off. But if you can, do it.

In case you have been living under a painted rock, here are some reasons why this solar eclipse is special in the United States, and in Tennessee:

* While total solar eclipses occur every year or two, they are often in the middle of nowhere like the South Pacific or Antarctic. The Aug. 21 eclipse will cut diagonally across the entire United States.

* The previous time a total solar eclipse was visible across the entire contiguous United States was during the June 8, 1918, eclipse.

* In the U.S., the next total solar eclipse will occur on April 8, 2024, and will cross Texas, up through the Midwest, almost directly over Indianapolis, Cleveland and Buffalo, New York, up over New England and out over Maine and New Brunswick, Canada. Not Tennessee.

* The first point of contact on Aug. 21 is in Oregon. If you want to be the first person to experience totality in the continental U.S., be on the waterfront at Government Point, Oregon, at 10:15:56.5 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. The total phase lasts 1 minute, 58.5 seconds.

* While it will look a little like nightfall as totality nears, the world around you will have a different look and feel. Shadows will look different. Usually, any breeze will dissipate. Birds will stop chirping and many will come in to roost. The temperature could drop 10 to 15 degrees.

Don’t let naysayers who worry that it will be a “non-event” because clouds might roll in or it might be hazy or it will be hard to get a good viewing spot get to you. It’s not like a baseball game that’s going to get rained out. The moon is going to travel its path between the earth and the sun whether it rains or not, whether there are clouds or not.

The song doesn’t have to be perfect. On Aug. 21, dance.

 

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Written by Sherri Gardner Howell