At the moment I am writing this, spring break was less than two weeks ago. By the time you read this, finals week will be upon us. The proximity of Lewis & Clark’s spring break to the end of the term has raised strong opinions at LC before, including on this very page of The Mossy Log. Personally, I am in favor of the current placement of spring break in the calendar, at least in normal years. I like that LC’s spring break lines up with Oregon public schools’ break, so that I can go on vacation with my whole family without worrying about my younger siblings missing school.
2024, however, will not be a normal year. I bring a counterintuitive proposal to the administration: Next year, and next year only, spring break should be moved even later in the year. Specifically, it should take place the week of April 8. On that Monday, a total solar eclipse is predicted to sweep across North America, starting off the west coast of Mexico, crossing into Texas and passing over much of the Midwest, before then finally traversing the Maritime provinces of Canada and out into the Atlantic.
Big deal, I can hear you saying. A lot of my friends saw the 2017 eclipse from their Bay Area homes, 400 miles south of the path of totality, and they were unimpressed. Apparently, it made the sun look like a crescent moon for a few minutes. Cool, but nothing worth rescheduling classes for.
At the risk of sounding like a gatekeeper of eclipses, seeing a total eclipse from outside the path of totality is like getting all the winning lottery numbers except for one. You can console yourself by claiming it is almost a win, but ultimately, there is no almost: You either win or you lose.
After seeing a total eclipse in 1979, America’s last before 2017, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard similarly wrote that “seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him.” I saw the 2017 eclipse from Silverton, Oregon, in the path of totality, and it remains to this day the most awe inspiring thing that I have ever seen and I want other LC students to have the option to experience the same magnitude of solar eclipse.
College life at LC for the past few years has not exactly been like the movies. This is no fault of the administration, as they certainly were not responsible for the coronavirus. Plenty of students have told me that some of the most important years of their life feel robbed by the pandemic. Yes, college is about studying. But you can study on Zoom. College is also about making friends, impulsive decisions and lifelong memories. Perhaps, it is also about making a thousand-mile trip to see a total eclipse.
Generation Z has been taught that life is not worth living. Because of the media, we have come to believe that the world is an irreparable hellscape and any hope for the future is a neoliberal lie. We need to be shown that there is beauty in the world. Imagine how much it would improve students’ mental wellbeing to have a spring break where we are all encouraged to trek across the country, friend group by friend group, scrimping and saving every penny, to go witness nature’s most spectacular phenomenon.
I know where I will be on April 8, 2024: in Texas, looking at the sun. Whether my friends will be there with me, and whether I will be missing any classes, is up to the administration.