We begin our eclipse report with a little prose poem by Richard called Amon Ra. It includes a couple of musical interlude links, it was operatic after all.
99 and a half just won’t do. Got to… got to… be a hundet as The Wicked (Wilson) Picket sang in 1966. (written with Steve Cropper and Eddie Floyd)
100% totality is the only way to experience an eclipse. Besides all of the life changing (I want to be a better person—I really really do) moments on our trip to northeastern Oregon to see the totality, the one moment that truly shocked the body, mind, and spirit was the moment when the heartbeat blinked, and the sun first emerged from the shadow of the moon. Even if you don’t believe a lot of the mumbo-jumbo that masks itself as wisdom barfed out by self-anointed Shamans, and on the other end, platitudes and the easy, jaded irony we all live with in this age of the simulacrum—this standing for this—the whole of human experience living inside of snarky quotes—then, I guarantee when the sun first emerges from the eclipse you will feel the Eye of Horus looking right at
AND the whole of creation. That first emergent beam puts the whole shootin’ match in the spotlight of “unsubdued elation”. Makes you want to shout! C’mon y’all, makes you want to shout! Just sitting here putting words down—maybe, actually, shout, and maybe, unable to utter a sound with the closed throat of overwhelming verklempt-ness.
We were lost in hypnotic torpor with our little group of 25 standing on a hilltop with a 360° view, standing in a holy hush. Enchanted, having just seen the ghosty, invisible corona—glasses off! become a heavenly halo spilling out into space, mesmerizing, emanating from the black hole in the sky, time rubberized to timeless forever— and then, WHAM! the very the first speck WAKE UP!! Eye of Horus pours down a thralling waterfall of light.
“Have you ever felt for anything such wild love” (thanks Mary Oliver). A thousand horn sections from a thousand Stax/Volt reviews, circa 1967. That first speck of light is a burst dam spilling, flooding creation.
Sing it Otis—I been loving you too long to stop now…
Sorry to make you work at it….but it’s worth it. Cue horn section. Big ups to the Disneyland All College Band. Start this one at the 2:50 mark.
It’s been on our bucket list forever—to see an eclipse—a total eclipse. We’ve seen a few partials and one annular but the 100% occlusion is the goal. Got to have a “hundet” as Wilson Picket wrote in 1966 99 and a Half Just Won’t Do. Being one a day’s (+) drive from home was undeniable. Turns out every campground, motel had been sold out month’s ago so we thought we’d rent a station wagon to sleep in. When we got to the agency everyone else had that idea too. They’d rented our vehicle and they had a substitute for us— not an Explorer or an Excursion or even an Expedition but a Ford Extinction! (good one Judith). They generously threw in a gas voucher. So we packed up this beast and headed out for the band of 100% totality. We chose northeastern Oregon in the start of the Palouse country for the greatest chance of clear skies. Our behemoth of a vehicle provided a smooth and commanding ride; we could get used to this.
First stop Petaluma, where the Art Center was featuring three of our works in an exhibit about the ocean—Tidal Response. We were blown away by the response—so many showed up and we stayed into the evening so we only got as far as the Nevada state line.
Morning found us in Reno at one of the gambling joint “all you can eat” buffets, loading up our cooler with butter rolls, BBQ brisket and chicken fried steak. Not exactly the Bay Area “good for the planet” comestibles, but hey we’re riding in the Extinction.
As we headed east then north we skirted the edge of the Black Rock Desert. The open expanse of the road that went on forever was an art lesson example of single point perspective.
When the radio reception faded away, Judith reading aloud was our “book-on-tape”—Kirk Varnedoe’s A Fine Disregard…“…in a fine disregard for the rules…”The book begins with this quote from a plaque at the Rugby School in Merry Ole’ commemorating the invention of the Rugby game. When Wm. Webb Ellis picked up the soccer ball and ran with it, soccer was transformed into rugby and eventually American football. Do we love trying to parse out this thing called modern art? Oh, yes we do. And this fine disregard became the leitmotif of our trip…do what you feel and don’t make too many plans… let’s see what serendipity brings…Serendipity comes from the tale of the 3 princes of Serendip (modern day Sri Lanka) who were tasked with finding the magical one-eyed camel. They set out never finding the camel but they did find the world.
As we traveled further and further, towards the Palouse country —dry, vast, fenceless —we traveled beyond space and time, into the most remote stretch of Highway 395, miles from nowhere. Far from the familiar, we finally felt we had arrived on vacation. When we stopped to take in the wide-angled view at a large shoulder pull-out, a truck with a travel trailer pulled up behind us. A man, in a panic, shouts out, do you have any gas? His rig was running on empty and would never make it up the long incline and to the next gas 30 miles away. In this emptiness there was no cellular, no Internet and no other cars. Good Samaritan Richard offered to take him, his wife and his son to the next gas station then bring them back again.
Helping strangers along the way. Why not? It’d be a 90 mile trip to there and back and back again.The only thing on our agenda for the next few days was Monday starting at 9:30 AM. Until then we were ready for anything and anyone who might come our way, carrying a fine disregard for the mania we seem to share for the time and destination of Late Capitalism. Along the 30 miles to the gas station our strangers quickly became friends. Carlos and fam suggested that we join them to park and camp at their sister-in-law’s hill-top ranch in Mt. Vernon — right in the center of the totality. “Maybe see you tonight?” Feeling shy of invading a family event we ate dinner at the local diner in Mt. Vernon pitying the overwhelmed besieged ladies who ran the joint, “We don’t get but this many folks in a month…I got my third round of pies in the oven, hope you can be patient for that baked potato.”
As we walked out into the gloaming we had second thoughts about making a roadside camp on a dusty BLM road. It felt lonesome and pretty crummy, “Let’s go see what’s up with Carlos” in a fine disregard for our own reticence. In the twilight we drove further and further the miles up and up the mountain thinking maybe this was a wild goose chase until we hove around a corner in our Extinction arriving at a closed gate but not locked—opened her up and were greeted by blues man Harry Harpoon who helped us park our rig (seems like any vehicle east of the Cascades is a “rig”). “Slide your rig right up close to that horse trailer.”
The kitchen door swung open and as we stepped in—an apparition—a man towered above us — tall (6’4″) a shock of white hair and a flowing white beard said “WELCOME” as he handed us a tall glass of huckleberry wine (did we say delicious? did we say http://davidhamiltonwinery.com/ artisinal? and sneakily alcoholic—well crafted sweetness.) Carlos had phoned ahead singing our Samaritan praises, so we basked in the easy glory of having done a mitzvah. Mitzva? One in-law asked, “Is Richard a Hebrew?” A Hebrew? A rarity in these parts. They’d made a family trip to Israel to check out the wineries and were impressed at the water management for agriculture. Yes! Hebrew!
We had stepped into a family reunion of sorts hosted by the very gracious Crish and biblically bearded David. The assortment of folks had come from Texas, from Yakima and from parts unknown : a corporate trainer and life coach, a Greek statue of a guy who had been on the Cowboys training squad, a yoga teacher, a horse wrangler for the national traveling rodeo, a mechanic for the Navy, two elementary school teachers and a passel of kids and cousins. An amazing collection of folks who had all lived life with a fine disregard.
In the living room Harry Harpoon set up his instruments and spelt the blues with his slide guitar. It got late and we were worn out so we stumbled onto the foam mattress in the back of our rig to dream the dream of stars and await the sun’s shenanigans. Should we say the moon? Clouds tumbled in but we were assured they’d be gone by morning. Were we worried having come all this way for clear skies? What we really came for was to “live in a fine disregard.”
Dawn breaking as I woke,
With the white sweat of dew
On the green, new grass.
I walked in the cold, quiet as
If it were the world beginning;
Peeling and eating a chilled tangerine.
I may have many sorrows,
Dawn is not one of them…
Alba by Derek Wolcott
With a knock on the windshield in the morning, along with a glorious sunrise, we were greeted with steaming mugs of hot coffee and croissants. We could not believe our good luck to be in the warm embrace of this free-ranging family. By all counts by now there were 25 of us. After much scurrying about, lawn chairs, stumps and recliners were set up—viewing glasses handed out.
safety glasses on
in the path of totality
a pack of happy sisters and brothers
We were ready-set for the show. Let the countdown anticipation begin. Along with watching the clock, Judith was the thermometer keeper. She called out the temperature as moon cast its shadow across the earth — as the mercury fell some 20 degrees nothing prepared us for the reality. We know many many things like: the moon will begin to occlude the sun at exactly 10:06 AM, we understand much much less like: The longest duration on record of totality is just over 7 minutes (our duration was 2 minutes and 15 seconds) and because of the focus of the sun by the moon, shadows look a lot sharper. But, we realize much less than we understand, feeling realization happens only by being present. We realize love and imagination are the most powerful forces in the universe. An eclipse has been described a million times before—about the awe inspiring flaming corona, stars appearing in the day. But there is no way to really describe the celestial wonder you feel right in your human heart. To be bonded in wonder with a group of strangers, makes you want to shout!! Then grab everyone you know by the lapels and say: “You must be in the presence of this wonder.”
See y’all in Burnett Texas April 8, 2024