For Sacramento resident Laura Hohlwein, a total eclipse is a chance to get a glimpse of the awe-inspiring size and power of the cosmos.

The Aug. 21 eclipse will be the second for Holwein, an artist and teacher.

In 1991, Hohlwein went with her family to Costa Rico, where they viewed an eclipse standing in the warm waters of the Pacific.

It was a summer afternoon, and the rainforest that bordered the shore was alive with the sound and commotion of tropical fauna. As the moon began to move across the surface of the sun and the light changed, the noise subsided along with it.

When the eclipse reached totality, the moment the moon completely covered the sun’s face, it seemed as if the rainforest had gone to sleep, Hohlwein said. At totality, day had become night.

“Seeing stars over the ocean in the middle of the day was just one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen,” Hohlwein said.

She was awestruck by the dramatic transformation. She learned in school about the positions and relative distances of the earth, sun and moon, but now she could see it for herself. The eclipse gave her a chance to “directly experience vastness,” a chance she hopes to recapture later this month when she travels to Oregon to see the upcoming total eclipse.

Along with the “sense of scale,” obtained, she caught a glimpse of what ancients who lacked an understanding of astronomy might have felt, seeing the sun suddenly seem to go out. Although she knew what was happening and why, there was something eerie and uncanny about the disappearance of the sun, and she felt anxious – even a bit fearful.

When the moon finally, long moments later, began to slide off the other side, making the sun’s corona resemble a wedding ring with a sparkling diamond, there was enormous relief.

“We were all just trembling and laughing and holding each other,” Hohlwein said.

For Hohlwein, the experience instilled a greater understanding of the vastness of the solar system, and the moment, and that understanding carried ‘a real falling away of ego.”

“There was a lack of distinction between me and life on earth,” Hohlwein said.