A moment of awe; a time for transformation


The moon moved slowly between the sun and earth, obscuring the light of the sun. The sky dimmed, and the temperature dropped. A strange dusk fell across Chilmark atop Peaked Hill, one of the highest points on the Island. In that unique moment on Monday just after 3:30 pm, as the moon, the sun, and the earth were momentarily aligned, it left us with a collective pause somewhere between dread and awe. 

Dread and awe: They seem like appropriate bookends to all that is unfolding in a deeply polarized United States on the edge of a fateful election, and in our divided world, where wars in Ukraine and Gaza grind on without any end in sight. The awe came in watching people seizing the moment to come together with family and friends to celebrate and behold the skies at the moment along the path of “totality” of the eclipse, or at least for the 93 percent of it that we experienced here in Massachusetts. It gave us all a chance to look away from the dread and up to the skies through eclipse glasses, and to hope for change. 

The solar eclipse, honestly, left me feeling, above all, restless and impatient. I appreciated my wife picking me up at the newsroom on Beach Road, and was glad she encouraged me to take it all in for a moment on Peaked Hill, overlooking the beautiful coastline of Aquinnah and Squibnocket and out toward the Elizabeth Islands. It is always something to behold. It always evokes awe. 

But as the moment passed, I needed to get going. I quickly headed back to Vineyard Haven to help the team get the paper out. And I needed to sit down and write this third monthly dispatch since taking up the helm as publisher to keep you, our readers, updated on our very own celestial path at The Martha’s Vineyard Times and to share our team effort to rebuild the news organization from the ground up. 

In most cultures around the world, an eclipse of the sun is seen as a time of change and transformation. In the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, there are different interpretations, but generally it is viewed as a time when darkness is replaced by light, a death followed by spiritual renewal. In astrology, it is a time of disruption when the moon’s shadow obscures the sun, and for many astrological signs, a time of great change. Similarly, in most of the belief systems of the indigenous tribes across America, including the Wampanoag of Aquinnah, it is a quiet time of introspection, a pondering of the union between the sun and the moon that symbolizes rebirth. 

It is generally seen as a time to shed old energy and replace it with new. And for all of us, secular or religious, it can feel like a moment of great humility, where we might allow ourselves to be humbled by the vastness of the universe, and to accept the lack of control we have over the movement of the sun, the moon, and the planet. 

On our Island, it seems like the right time to think anew about all the challenges before us around climate change, inequity, housing, immigration. They are all stories we plan on chronicling as the universe continues to evolve and revolve around us. I hope our news organization can embrace all the change, and be open to the time of new beginnings. 

As I drove our truck down Tabor House Road, I pulled over to see a work crew replacing a roof. One of the carpenters, “J.P.,” was taking a minute to share a single pair of eclipse glasses with three other carpenters on the crew working alongside him. It was a good picture as he perched himself on the pitch of the roof and looked straight up at the sweep of sky above him. 

“Wow. Very cool. Amazing,” and then he handed off the glasses and turned back to his work. The sound of a hammer was pounding away echoing in the stillness as the moon continued its path across the sun, and the sky remained somewhere between dusk and daylight. 

But amid all the celestial ponderings, I just couldn’t shake that anxiety about our deadlines.

As I pulled into the parking lot at The MV Times, I saw Cole Powers, an electrician who is our neighbor on the waterfront, and who has been helping us get our Ethernet cables updated and connected to a new server for the newsroom. He is always incredibly busy, with a full team of crews being dispatched to projects, especially as the Island gears up for summer. But he said he too had just returned from taking a moment to view the celestial event.

“I just wanted to stop and smell the roses. I guess it was one of those days where I was realizing life is short. I’m glad I did it, but now I gotta get back to work,” Powers said.

On my way in the back door, I ran into my friend Nat Benjamin, heading toward the boat barn at the Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway just in front of our building on the Vineyard Haven waterfront. He was carrying a can of denatured alcohol to refinish a boat. He wasn’t planning to stop to ponder the eclipse, but he did. He said he went out on the dock with an old wooden sextant, used its selectable shades to mitigate the intensity of the solar rays, and viewed the sun’s outer atmosphere through the scope. If you know Nat Benjamin, and his unique stature in the craft of building wooden boats, that is a perfect image.

“It worked well,” Benjamin said, smiling with the same calm joy he has just about every day I see him. That sense of awe is always with him. 

“Reflecting on this celestial experience, I was comforted by the sense that there are greater powers at work in our lives,” Benjamin shared with The Times. “No amount of diabolical human behavior can have any effect on the big picture. The intelligence that governs the orbits of our planets and moons and the placement of stars will not be bothered by us. For that I’m grateful.”

Our managing editor, Connie Berry, who this week was elevated to associate publisher, said she was too busy preparing the Community and Calendar sections to stop for the eclipse. Kristofer Rabasca, our designer, who was just given a promotion to creative director, was similarly focused on his desk, laying out the paper. But as I would learn, they both talked each other into stepping outside just to catch a glimpse through a single pair of eclipse glasses. They gave in to the need we all have to experience awe, even just for a moment on a busy day of deadlines.

The newsroom, with its newly polished wood floors, was glistening as the sun poured through the clean windows. And the newsroom was pretty empty, as reporters Daniel Greenman and Eunki Seonwoo were out recording Islanders experiencing the eclipse. Our news editor, Sam Houghton, was pulling all the dispatches from the field together for The Minute, our daily newsletter. Dave Plath, our art director and production manager, was taking photographs up at the museum, and capturing the moment for history. Our star intern, Nikeya Tankard, whom we have just promoted to community engagement manager and reporter, packed up her lunch and was rushing to the high school to meet with her team at the High School View, where she is the editor-in-chief. In our small newsroom, it felt like our own stars were all in motion, and our local universe was shifting and changing. We will have more hires to come in the near future, and I plan to keep you updated on all the good news.

So on this week of the eclipse of the sun, it seemed like the perfect time to update you, our readers, on all this progress we are making at the paper week by week, as we straddle that space between dread and awe. It’s hard not to feel dread with local news in a distressing decline in every corner of America, at a time when truth itself feels under attack. But there is also awe at the way in which the news business can be reborn through a collision of the opportunity of technology and the human need for truth. The future of local journalism might just surprise us all. And more simply, there is hope in watching how this team at The MV Times just keeps on getting it done, day in and day out. They are understaffed and overworked, and every week they still manage to produce a paper that strives to keep our readers informed. And just about every day, as I observe all they do, their attention to the craft of journalism, their service to our community, I stand in awe.


  1. What a thoughtful piece. Was so glad I paused to take the time to read and reflect on a great read.

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