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From the Publisher: Still Mooning


Published April 17, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.

A couple watching the eclipse in Starksboro - COURTESY OF SUNSHINE OUIMETTE
  • Courtesy Of Sunshine Ouimette
  • A couple watching the eclipse in Starksboro

I can't stop thinking about last week's eclipse. I know it's been nine days — an eternity in the news business — since the sun silhouetted the moon in the path of totality, an awe-inspiring display for everyone lucky enough to have seen it. While the hot stories of the day burn up like so many meteors, time hasn't faded the image of that fire-ringed orb for me. Judging from the conversations I've had in the past week, I'm not alone.

Much has already been said about the rare glimpse of our spot in the solar system. It "lived up to the hype and then some," as Vermont Gov. Phil Scott marveled in a press conference after the event. To behold two heavenly bodies in relationship to one another — to say nothing of the other planets that became visible in the daytime darkness — gave space a dimensionality that is hard to imagine, let alone observe with the naked eye. All you had to do was look up, for three minutes, to see the universe.

Almost as wondrous as the sight above were the ones around us. "Everyone in the path ... had free and equal access to this awesome and inspiring event," as Hugo Liepmann wrote eloquently in this week's Feedback section. "What a beautiful leveling of the human playing field!"

Seven Days reporter Derek Brouwer watched the eclipse with two guys who were parking cars on the Burlington Beltline, and he noted their reactions in last week's group cover story, "Totally Transfixed." Steve Goldstein spent the afternoon with inmates at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans ­— a choice that was not lost on a grateful former probation officer who also wrote in this week.

While viewing the eclipse was an individual endeavor, it was also a shared experience, not unlike going to church. But organized religion made no claims on the cosmic convergence — "no corporate sponsor or celebrity spiel, and no need for either," Liepmann noted. Often, when we gather to look skyward, it's to watch a rocket launch, fireworks or some other human intervention in space. I'm so glad tech bro Elon Musk had nothing to do with this all-natural wonder.

"Let us long remember that, for those glorious, fleeting moments, folks of every stripe and ilk could experience the grace and calm of equality for all," Liepmann wrote.

Other things that should not be forgotten: the improbably warm, sunny weather; flawless event planning and statewide travel logistics; 160,000 people trekked to Vermont and got exactly what they came for.

That night, I walked through downtown Burlington and saw eclipse tourists of all persuasions enjoying the city, from the waterfront boardwalk to Ben & Jerry's on Church Street to the sunset from Battery Park. It looked like a summer night — in April. The good vibes extended to the social media platform Reddit, which can be a pretty negative place. On the r/Burlington channel, visitors raved about the city and promised to return. Paraphrasing Vermont Secretary of Commerce and Community Development Lindsay Kurrle: Nature delivered the best marketing campaign money can't buy.

Bags of trash at Elmwood Cemetery after a community cleanup day. - PAULA ROUTLY ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Paula Routly ©️ Seven Days
  • Bags of trash at Elmwood Cemetery after a community cleanup day.

People were still talking about the eclipse at a "celebration and community cleanup" on April 14 at Burlington's Old North End Community Center, organized by the office of Emma Mulvaney-Stanak. The new mayor was there, handing out rubber gloves, in an inaugural effort to put concerned citizens to work beautifying the city. Deputy publisher Cathy Resmer and I spent an hour picking up man-made detritus in Elmwood Cemetery alongside volunteers including Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad and his son.

The eclipse provided a sense of universal belonging. Seeing people combing the streets on a Sunday morning, garbage bags in hand, made me feel a deeper connection to my home on Earth.

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