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A 'me eclipse' or a 'we eclipse?' It's time to decide how you want to see the April eclipse

Under a darkening sky, more than a dozen people in summer clothes wait on folding chairs in a grassy town park for the start of the 2017 total solar eclipse in Marion, Kentucky
Scott Fybush
/
WXXI
Eclipse buffs in Marion, Kentucky gathered in the town park to await the 2017 total solar eclipse

When the moon covers the sun for three and a half minutes, where will you be? In some ways, that’s a very simple question. Wherever you are along the path of the moon’s speeding shadow, as long as you have a clear view of the late afternoon sun in the southern sky, all you need to do is position yourself, make sure you have your eclipse glasses handy, and wait for totality to come to you.

So the question I’ve been pondering for the last seven years - and the one I’m hoping you’ll think about, too - is: what kind of eclipse experience do you want to have, especially if this is your first time in totality?For many of us, it’s thrilling to think of an eclipse as the kind of special event you want to experience in a crowd that’s all going wild at once, the way “Swifties” do when they flock to Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, for instance.

WXXI’s Scott Fybush was fortunate enough to travel to the last total eclipse in North America in 2017. In our series “What to Expect When You’re Expecting an Eclipse,” he’ll share that experience, providing advice on how to make the most of this brief but magical moment.

It’s not a perfect analogy, because the eclipse isn’t a concert. There’s no ticket required. But just like a concert, maybe you want to take in the magic with thousands of strangers, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with friends and strangers, reveling in the shared experience.

If you want to be surrounded by a crowd when the shadow zooms by, you’re having what eclipse veterans call a “we” eclipse. It’s a great choice, especially if - like most of us here - this will be your first eclipse.

There are lots of good options for a “we” eclipse. You can gather with the crowds that will be forming at parks. You can watch in open spaces in your neighborhood. And there are plenty of special events at ballparks and museums where you can learn from the experts and enjoy some food and drink while you wait for the big moment.

It’s what I did with my family seven years ago, when we found the town park in Marion, Kentucky, where a hundred or so locals and visitors were spread out watching as totality approached.

Our “we” eclipse went perfectly. The clouds held off just long enough, and it was so much fun to cheer and celebrate with others who had also traveled so far for the experience.

But there’s another way to experience an eclipse, too, and it’s what I’ll be seeking this time around. Instead of a “we” eclipse, you might also consider a “me” eclipse, where you let the sun and the moon align over you in a quieter, more contemplative way.

“I’m sure it’s what people who are religious feel when they go to church.”

That could be a Taylor Swift fan, but it’s actually veteran eclipse chaser David Baron’s description of how totality feels to him. Chasers like Baron often talk about how the total eclipse experience can be a moment of transcendent quiet and peace that’s very much unlike the Eras Tour.

If you’re away from the applause and the screams, a “me” eclipse can be the best way to take in the feast for all of the senses that comes with totality.

It’s more than just the sudden jolt from daylight to darkness. If you’re somewhere quieter, you’ll hear how birds and animals react. You’ll feel the drop in temperature. And you won’t have to worry about the traffic jams that can follow a “we” eclipse, especially if you do what I plan to do this time, which is to watch the show from my own backyard.

That’s a remarkable treat, because even the most dedicated eclipse chasers can go an entire lifetime without ever getting to see totality from their own homes. David Baron lives in Colorado, but he’ll be traveling to Texas to experience this one with his family members from all around the country.

“We’re all going to be together, and it’s such a meaningful experience to have it with your loved ones,” Baron says. “It’s another way of bonding.”

So is that a “me” eclipse or a “we” eclipse? Maybe it’s a little of both - and there’s nothing wrong with that, either.

The only bad choice would be not to watch at all.

You'll hear Scott in various capacities on WXXI either as a reporter, or hosting Morning Edition or All Things Considered.