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When you begin researching how best to view a total eclipse, you learn about the "path of totality," that stripe of geography across which the moon's shadow will fall and the sun will be blotted out. In 2017, our family chased the eclipse to the most remote place in the path of totality that we could reasonably reach by car: a hilltop outside Comstock, Neb. The conditions were perfect, the experience magical. I knew if I had a chance to see another I would jump at it.

Kids grow up, get busier, scatter. This time, only our son was willing to miss class and meet me in Texas. We would join up with friends in Austin, where the forecast was poor, and travel north, where it was better. Our group included an astrophysicist and an amateur astronomer, who monitored six different weather models. Over coffee in Lampasas our guides determined conditions would be better 40 miles up the road. There we reassessed our odds and continued another 40 miles to Meridian, population 1,396. We took one of the half dozen parking spots at the city park on the edge of State Hwy. 22. Nearby, police waved people into a field, $10 a car. Our guides pointed instruments at the sky, set to unpacking their telescopes and cameras, and made technical talk.

Confession: I couldn't care less about astronomy. I'll make time for an eclipse, the northern lights, the odd meteor shower, but I mostly don't care what's up there, or what it's doing. I'm more interested in what's happening down here. I joined those setting up the picnic table. Our provisions: Moon Pies, Sun Chips, Starbursts, Milky Way bars. Corona beer for later. Incredibly, the people at the next table were from Minnesota. We made small talk: What part of the state? Which airport did you fly into? Much traffic?

The park started filling up. The scene was different from 2017, when we had the eclipse all to ourselves. Across the field, someone had erected risers on which the high school band was playing. Children ran around groups of grown-ups in lawn chairs. We learned the local school had closed for the day. As work trucks rumbled past, my son wondered why a total eclipse wasn't a federal holiday. I agreed.

I'm a Minnesotan down to the ground. I've never seen more strangers talking to each other. Everyone wanted to know where everyone else was from, whether they'd seen an eclipse before. Our astrophysicist and astronomer played the docents, drawing crowds as they explained the various phenomena on display, inviting everyone to have a look through their telescopes. A young girl set her eclipse glasses and a phone on the ground to hold binoculars. Moments later I saw her mother berating her for letting the phone get stepped on.

But mostly people were enthusiastic and kind and generous. A woman walked through the crowd handing out glow sticks. Adults told children to pay attention to the birds, or the insects, or the temperature. I was annoyed when a trio of voluble teenage boys settled next to me, then realized it was their eclipse, too. I knew what they didn't: that their too-cool-for-school attitude was about to be stripped away by an experience unlike any they'd yet had, and may never have again.

The first "bite" appeared, the moment when the moon's shadow can begin to be seen at the edge of the sun. On went the glasses, back went the heads. When the moment of totality came, a cheer went up and the glasses came off. A wave of gasps. Confusion. Shouting. You could pick out those who'd seen a total eclipse before. They were the calm ones. They knew how quickly it would pass, and savored it. The rookies grabbed one another, hollered, jumped around. Some of us cried. I did. I said a prayer and contemplated the paradox of a creator who made a universe infinitely large and a people infinitely small to wonder at it.

Suddenly the "diamond ring" appeared, signaling the end of totality. Another wave of gasps. Warnings to put the glasses back on. Dumbstruck has a sound, I realized, a kind of muted laughter mixed with long exhaling. Afterward, a new friend asked me if my second total eclipse was any less exciting than the first. I told her it was like the birth of our second child: less surprising but no less magical.

On our way out of town, my son and I pulled over to photograph a patch of wildflowers. It's a Texas tradition to set your baby in the bluebonnets and take their picture. I persuaded my 21-year-old to sit in the flowers and sent the picture to my wife, who was named an Honorary Texan by then-Gov. George W. Bush when she moved away, to Minnesota.

Walking back to the car, we marveled that we both still felt the physical effects of the thrill, a kind of tingle. "What's the word for this feeling?" I wondered aloud, and then remembered: awe.

My son noted the next total eclipse in the U.S. will be in 2044, when I'll be 77. I handed him our eclipse glasses, the same ones we'd used in 2017. "These are yours now," I said. "Just tell me where to meet you."

Steve Yaeger lives in Eagan.