Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Edge of Totality

"I turned back to the sun. It was going. The sun was going, and the world was wrong." 
~ Annie Dillard

A couple of days ago, I found myself at The Edge of Totality, the sun eclipsing to approximately 99.85% where I live here in Oregon.  We have heard a great deal about the experience of Totality, including Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Dillard's account regarding the last major eclipse of 1979, which she viewed in the Pacific Northwest.  I wasn't in Oregon then.  I was in Denver, Colorado, and though what I saw there as a teen was very much "partial", it prepared me for my experience of 2017. 

"Almost Totality" turned out not to be "less", how it came to me - it was More than expected.   I wrote the following live during the experience and soon after, feeling it may be of interest to someone "across time", as Annie's account was to me.  If you ever find yourself "trapped" on The Edge of Totality (or even in total Totality), this is what it was like for me...


Monday, August 21, 2017

6:40 AM
Upon the hour of decision, I have decided to be quietly at home. For multiple reasons. It feels right. I have reached a turning point in my life, a threshold. This event drives it home.

7:04 AM 
It recognizes and validates something I've known, already.
And I feel Peace.
The moment I made my decision, the sun popped brightly over the horizon. It will be a clear day.

7:10 AM
Outside in the yard with my dog after midnight, I observed the darkness. Then I read a brilliant account of an eclipse by Annie Dillard. One would think Anais [Nin] had written it. If you have never seen her account, I highly recommend reading it. As with the best of accountings, it is more than what it seems to be. At first, when I read it, I wanted to be on the road, seeking adventure, seeking an experience I have never had. When darkness arrives, it is visceral, they say, or so she said it. There is no place "out" today that I need to be. I would rather be In.

7:23 AM
In the darkness, I observed, just as I had at sunset at the other house earlier, our world is already Magical, every day. Do we notice? Yes, I imagined how those on the road a mere handful of miles away, and I wasn't quite at peace with it yet, would see something most will never get the chance to see. Annie drove the point home. It's not "normal". The landscape changes. I can see that from here. The part I need to see. Yes, thank goodness, this feels right. I don't know if there's a frenzy out there. Probably, to a point.  A nature park is on the highway to Totality. I imagined people flooding the parking lot (and they very well might, if 99.85% is as far as they can get. But that's not it, either. There is an energy of indecision. And there is an energy of Peace.

7:25 AM
I know what darkness looks like. That's the only part I'm missing.

7:34 AM
Well, not exactly - there's plenty more to Totality. But the energy around it is all wrong. I don't need to be a part of that. I'm happy my son gets to see it. These kinds of things are particularly meaningful for those young enough to carry it with them for a lifetime. Many things are like that. I don't need those things anymore, not for that reason. Because a lifetime is more than just a lifetime. Because just because a particular life can feel finite doesn't mean we need to feel the need to cram everything in. That isn't Peace. That is something else, entirely. Do we believe life is Infinite? Do we know?

8:42 AM
I turned on the radio while getting ready for the day. I felt a moment of indecision. It IS a bit mesmerizing, to be so close to totality. That would make a good essay or book title: On the Edge of Totality. A commercial came on..."Click your heels 3 times..." "There is no place like home."  It begins shortly. I am not choosing only to meditate or be media free. I will do what I do. It is 8:42.


8:55 AM
A post flashed across my [Facebook] feed - someone selling eclipse glasses in my town for $50 apiece. Another last night for $1. They are all dubiously made, in my opinion. Dutch Bros Coffee gave out countless pairs, only to say now they are unsafe. [My son] took out one pair of mine to examine and had left it for me. I have another in the package I think I will give to him as a kind of a time capsule. There was a third pair, somewhere. I sit here quietly. The sun is shining brightly. I actually haven't even opened the eastern facing blinds. It seems unusually bright this morning. I glanced at the sun very briefly, earlier, rising over the mountain. The eclipse hasn't even started yet - it feels different, somehow. Maybe I'm the one who is different. I must be changing. Still, the road is alluring since the one they are saying is busy is to the east - but they often ignore this side of town, so I really couldn't say. It really was tempting - and still is, to [a] degree. I really don't feel inclined to be at the nature park either. It's as if something more primitive in me wants to be near shelter. Annie felt that, too. It isn't exactly fear. Yet in a way, it is. Do I really want to watch total darkness descend while standing in a parking lot? Or who knows? "There is no place like home." Spirit weighed in on the decision I already felt. I don't sense I will impulsively jump in the car. But who can say? I almost did.


9:11 AM
Wow. There really IS this feeling of wanting to jump in the car. It's not what I really want though, I sense. I grow a bit confused. I'm cooking Cream of Wheat (because I felt like an old favorite from my childhood today and picked it up yesterday). I took my time coming awake. I turned on NASA coverage. Local coverage showed people stopped on one of the interstates, not sure where. Peace. My goodness. Peace. (I'm reminded as milk is probably scalding on the stove while I write.)

9:20 AM
It cooked perfectly. In India, they say, you shouldn't cook during an eclipse. I just heard the road I was thinking of taking is jamming up west of here. Judgment glasses off. I am going to record my authentic experience. I have already used my pinhole viewer once - yes, it is starting. Deja vu.

9:34 AM
I went out again to look, realizing after looking at bright paper too long reflecting the sun is also too bright. Not like looking at the sun itself but not good for my eyes. Yes, I do appreciate coming inside. This NASA feed isn't particularly well done. A bit chaotic.
And I just realized it would be too late to get to Totality. And I'm not really all that disappointed. Good. The dog is unsettled - and this surprises me.
Now that my path is set, having eaten my breakfast, I become curious again. What will I see here? I wonder.

9:42 AM
That's better! The girl [I once was] on the mountain reminded me. I recall an event looking into a box - you don't look at white paper - my eyes are still adjusting from thàt!!! (I'm ok, it wasn't a point source, like driving into the dawn.). Is it getting dimmer? You tend to think so - the sun is about a third occluded. Eclipse glasses are highly unnecessary. My friends who went to the coast are in fog. I imagine they are disappointed. This is good for me here. This is going to proceed rather quickly. The sun isn't eerie yet - I have seen that before. Things get "strange".

 
 
9:47 AM
I hear lots of children playing at the park, more than usual. I am happy I'm home. For one, you can't keep eclipse glasses on and I have no need to use mine. I back away from my viewing area so I'm not even tempted to look at what I wouldn't be able to see. It's dimming a little, I swear, in my kitchen.

9:57 AM
Dimmer for sure in my kitchen....The eastern blinds are still down and that makes it more noticeable. I'm upset with myself for making my pinholes on white paper. Reminder for the future: pinhole viewers are perfectly sufficient - mine has multiple holes punched with a needle and I am using cardboard as the surface. Here it comes - I need to head out to the yard - but you notice the dimming more when you are focused on something else - like my phone - my peripheral vision is noticing progressive dimming - very slight as it goes.

10:08 AM
The NASA image on my silenced TV shows 3/4 occlusion or so.
The children are quieting (some). A cool breeze drifts through - the birds here are normal. I do suddenly reflect about how fast darkness must come for those about to experience it nearby. I have no idea what I will see here.
Oh yes!!! It's dimming, it really is. But not anything unlike I recall elsewhere.
The sun captures the gleam of a web drifting between evergreen branches over my head.
I am glad I am home. The Universe was right. Here on the Edge of Totality, I am curious and peaceful. I wouldn't want to be by the side of a road.
My pinhole viewer is sharp and clear - perfect!


10:18 AM (and minute after)
80 percent at least.
Otherworldly!
Wow.
It IS dark!!!

10:23 AM
It wasn't completely dark of course, but oh my goodness, I saw and I felt it. Right here. The fence is still filled with the slivers of sun - I found myself looking at the fence. It's still filled with slivers of course. The children are excited. A car alarm seemed to announce it. Someone played music. And now it's reversing.

10:27 AM
This isn't like dusk. Everything shifts. It's like sepia. I swear I hear fireworks but it's the gun range starting up. It was utterly silent for a long while. I am sitting in the shade of my patio. Indoors it was like night falling - the dog wasn't particularly unsettled.
At one point I ran through the house to look at the mountain - I am happy I looked that way too - I noticed the matte like effects the most looking out at a landscape.

10:27 AM
The sun still looks "off" out that way - I am witnessing in reverse what I didn't see that way earlier.

10:31 AM
It splashes differently. It reminds me of gosh what can I compare it to? Kind of like stadium lighting, I think, but not quite. It looks artificial. That's right now in the front of my house where it is "normalizing" again. I saw a flash of the fully eclipsed sun from Madras on my TV as I came through the house. That was the Universe!

12:05 PM
I just realized how altered the sun really was. It's the periphery. I just realized it's bright and normal again outside (and it actually wasn't at normal brightness for longer than I may tend to notice directly).  The nature park would have been pretty amazing, I sense, but I am satisfied I was here. I did not need to be in Totality.  If I have any feeling of wondering "what if?" now that it's past, it is with respect to the nature park - but I preferred being in a more settled place today. It was exactly as it needed to be. The Universe was right (as usual!).

12:41 PM
I realize something. I have a special relationship with changes in my observational environment...I tend to notice "surreal". Words didn't capture it. Neither did pictures. They kept telling us nearing Totality wasn't going to be much of anything - oh, it was something, indeed. Definitely significantly something. Wow summed it up very well. I didn't expect that much Wow! Not today.

12:49 PM
So it's true the nature park would have been a very interesting place - but I was very mindful of the sun and not really very much interested in wearing unnatural glasses. I think if I had known just how much "Wow!" Almost Totality was going to be, I might have reconsidered that - but the flash of the corona live from Madras, at that pivotal moment, was pretty surreal, and not as much how it "looked", how it felt in the moment - then to see the mountain landscape - it didn't look like the Earth - it was indeed very much like [a "spiritual experience"], yet relatively safe. Did I ever feel "not safe"? Not "experience-wise". But in some ways, yes - there's a visceral element to this - perhaps it's ancestral.

2:30 PM
And now, something I hadn't particularly expected, but it is most welcome - a reflective period AFTER the eclipse. I'm not going to rush back to "regular" activities just now. It was, truthfully, a pretty powerful experience, rather unexpected, and apparently I'm still having it. I just want to sit quietly now and let the feeling linger. What IS it exactly? There is no "exactly". I'm surprised by this. I'm a bit emotional. I don't feel I've "missed" anything in this moment - it was exactly what I needed to see, my most familiar surroundings, changed. I would have felt "exposed" at the nature park (even quite literally, physically). It somehow is a suitable farewell. But it isn't really about "place". I saw something unexpected. It surprised me. And that feeling is familiar. I'm going to sit with this and let it be.

4:06 PM 
A neighbor came over (briefly, thankfully not long), and he told me the local park was packed with people - I made the right choice, but I found my way to feeling that, on multiple levels. Roads coming back are not the same as roads going in, that too, since everyone is coming back at once. I'm past thinking about these things, really. I feel ancestral emotion (and my own, too). Can we even begin to >imagine< (and I'm sure I can read more of the accounts) of how various cultures viewed what was happening. Interestingly enough, I can't remember what Native American tribe it was, as I heard it in passing, they said it was the moon making love with the sun. That tells you something about a culture, whether they view such a profound event fearfully or lovingly. My yearning for shelter - what was that, exactly? Safe ground, I suppose. Was I afraid of it? Well, I didn't want to look at the sun, and these flimsy glasses were not particularly something I chose to rely upon. Was that all it was? There is something more here. I don't need or require a cosmic energetic explanation - there are plenty of those floating around. There IS an energy to a shared event like this, there is absolutely an energy - and I know that can be far more expansive and deep - but that's not what this is. Perhaps it's me. Perhaps it has to do with opening me up more. It's like the opposite effect of what I saw. There is much going on here, below the surface. I'm letting myself be. I'm letting whatever it is flow right through me. I can't put it in words. It was how the world changed. And nobody really expected it. And it was personal, too. I heard an account of it from someone I know that was the opposite - to this person, it was nothing, apparently - perhaps some people internalized the low expectations of "not totality" and could never get beyond them, I don't know - it is not for me to judge another's experience. It was very much Something, to me. And still is, hours later. I will never forget it. Annie wrote in her memoir-like story that her experience of a total eclipse was like death coming near. She saw a wall of darkness that was racing her way and felt it was terrifying. This isn't like that. It was astonishing and uplifting and surprising - it was unlike anything. Perhaps it IS about "the valley", perhaps it is, but not quite in that way. Annie was also uplifted. But there was nothing frightening about this experience, here, once it happened. It was invigorating. It brought me >Alive<...It was "Wow!"...There was something about this that was very pilgrim-like. It grows more perfect, as it is - and as it was. It happened so fast, the part I'm talking about - it came upon us in practically an instant - and it changed me, somehow - perhaps it reminded me. Am I still an explorer? Yet, still, it was more.

4:43 PM
It came to me just now, in the yard. Perhaps Annie was right. But then again, not exactly. It wasn't the darkness (though it was). It's the look in my father's eyes. That is IT. When he opened his eyes and he died. I will never, ever forget it. He saw >Something<. And I witnessed him coming Alive, just the beginning of it. We must all be explorers, to die some day. It is only about surrender on this side of the veil. We are what we are. He was, too. And IS. That's what it felt like. What he saw surprised and engaged him, all in an instant. It was intricate and Real. He had already seen his parents - it was past that, like a continuation. One could say it was Wonder, but it wasn't that, either. It was More than he expected, much More....in an instant.

4:46 PM
That's what the beginning of those 2 minutes was like...
I couldn't really say how many minutes it was - I didn't measure it. But that was the beginning. Dawn met the darkness, but it didn't feel dark. Dawn met the veil. It's in Us.

4:53 PM
I turned on The Weather Channel, curious to see some of the imagery. They are repeating the chorus, just now: "Let the Sun Shine...let the Sun Shine in, the Sun Shine In." Yes. Do we have any IDEA why we're here and who we are? "Get back to doing what you Love. Always be you." Yes, we are here to be who we are! And who is that, really? Who we are. On multiple levels. Who we are creating ourselves to be. And very much human....


6:14 PM
Magical.
It's not just the images cast by the trees.  That blue through the crack in the fence, if a picture could manage to capture it, is more "vivid" than usual.  Some days are special.

6:41 PM
It's all settling in now, integrating, though how it surprised me may take a while! Life is astonishing.

Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017

9:50 AM
There was a time lapse sequence fromtotality near me in Oregon crossing my Twitter feed last night that not only helped me to understand what I witnessed here, but Annie Dillard’s account (which I reread late last night - I intend to read more of her essays, I hadn't realized she won the Pulitzer Prize), as well as how this looked to those in history who didn't know what was happening. First, there would likely not be a lot of historical accounts of totality because the path is so small, but now I'm curious to look for those accounts. Near totality would also be rare, and near totality was, without a doubt, different. I wasn't even attempting to look at the sun with my glasses when the "different" began. The light left.   It happened SO fast.  And before it left and also when it returned, it shifted into the Things Rarely Seen domain. This was unexpected. It was akin to watching that tornado descend in the 80's, but I didn't think of that in the moment. Before what happened happened, it was a relatively "normal" experience, even if different - but then it rapidly became VERY different.   It was as if the light had suddenly been pulled into a vacuum of space. There was still some light left, but it was stunning; how fast and how unexpectedly - because all the "experts" said we wouldn't witness much where I was. The yard suddenly dark, I wanted to see the mountain. I turned to my house, as I had been looking at leaf effects on the fence not long before, but time shifted, too. Or so it felt.

9:59 AM
I turned to my sliding glass door and saw the living room was quite dark, amazingly dark, actually. I did manage to capture a picture. I sent it to my son and my sister soon after so they would know what was coming their way [preparing for Totality in Wyoming and Missouri]. I wanted to take a picture of my darkened living room, of all things. As I walked through it, I looked up at the television screen, which was silent, and it showed Totality, Live, with "Madras" in the lower left corner.   It was like being on the edge of the funnel, like a nozzle had descended to suck out the light. Walking through that room reminds me now of the evangelical haunted houses of my teens, where you walk in what seems like slow motion through a room lot with strobe lights. The dog had lifted her head where she lay under the television, but was calm. A Campus Life haunted house, or the fun house at Lakeside Amusement Park, or the Halloween House at Disney World. Take your pick. It was like that. And it captured that similar feeling from child and teen hood. You were safe and unsafe, all at once.

10:07 AM
I thanked the Universe in that instant, for a glimpse of Live Totality. But I didn't understand what Totality is like - not until I saw the time lapse from Salem on Twitter and later re-read Annie's account. I tried to describe the light that was already returning when I literally threw the front door open and got myself onto that porch. I am not unhappy I focused on leaf effects towards the end, but had I known darkness would come in such a way, like a vacuum cleaner not quite strong enough to take every last crumb of the light, but PLENTY powerful, I would have been looking at the view. I had read what Annie said, but I hadn't actually read it - or I thought much of it wouldn't apply. I was on the edge of the Shadow. It arrives not just quickly. It arrives immediately. An ancient observing this would have likely thrown him or herself to the ground in sheer terror. They would know something was strange by that time. I could say it was like flipping a light switch - but it was more like a dimmer switch on rapid descent - but the ancients would know nothing of switches.

10:21 AM
I wasn't distracted by the sun. I didn't have my glasses on. They were still in my kitchen, on my counter, in my unused trusty little pack. I later did ponder just how spectacular the sights would have been in the nature park, with some regret before bed, but I even now let that go. In a way, it was better in a smaller space, looking at a fence and a narrow band of sky. And my little yard under the trees. It was as if the nozzle passed expeditiously through on its way through the landscape. It does remind me of a tornado, how one might feel if caught up in the periphery. But there was no wind. I had noticed the cool breeze when the "Otherworldly" began, but I could feel nothing on my skin when it got dark.   I did manage to type here. I managed to do more than I expected. Time stretched out. I will never forget the image of the corona on my television screen, and I knew the scene was containing me and my little dog and my house and my neighborhood and all the familiar things that I knew. The room was electrified by the flares. My living room contained the eclipsed sun, Live and in color, completely - and I was Live in the midst of it, contained. There really wasn't much color. There was white and there was black, and it traveled out into the room, seeping into my furniture, or perhaps pouring or flowing or filling. It was in a real space. No alternative could have possibly been better for me in that moment. Or to write about it now.

10:28 AM
I looked at the dog, who had lifted her head, slightly curious, having heard me open the door - I didn't even turn on the light - the red light of the switch on the surge protector on my end table, by where I lay on my couch now, still awakening, was also something I noticed when I first walked in. That red was the only color I saw in that room. My pace quickened. I threw open the living room door. Often the lock sticks but I commanded it to open. Loudly it did - with ferocity - you could have heard the decisiveness of the lock releasing and my door swinging open, the screen door slamming shut behind me, a block away. I was like the child my brother [the meteorogist] advised me to be. How long would you photograph a tornado? He used to say. How long would you watch it? How close? I was that child. I didn't care if anyone heard the door. I was the child in Close Encounters, that too.
 
10:43 AM
The light was already returning. The outline of the mountain was slightly pink. The light was already returning. It poured in like an elixir, like a foreign substance. The time lapse caught it! It was THAT! I was caught on the edge of Totality, and I knew it. I didn't know it completely until I saw what they saw, down in Salem. The picture on my screen (I learned later) was probably from Salem - the caption said Madras, but upon replay later the announcer was speaking of showing Salem. That makes total sense. But it could have been either. As I stood on my porch, I could literally FEEL the energy of Totality to the south. I could feel it coming from the south.
I heard music the other direction. It reminded me of the Jesus movement in the 70's, music my [other] sister used to play, or they played in church Sunday night. Someone like my sister, I thought in that moment, an End Times Christian awaiting Jesus arriving, was playing that music so loud to my north down the street, it filled the block as much as my lock and my doors swinging open (and the screen door swinging shut). Like children or teens, there was no one to tell us not to slam the door shut and make a commotion or play music out the window. I would like to tell you I was "reverent". It wasn't like thàt. I was me in that moment, and I was living it fully. It was exhilaration!...The light was returning. There was no time to go up the stairs and look out from up there. Before I had been in slow motion. I had even taken a picture. But I wanted to look at the mountain before it was over. So I acted quickly and decisively and swung open the door and really did race onto my porch before it went away. Did I glance up the stairs? I at least thought about glancing. The light was returning....

10:44 AM
Things slowed down again on the porch. Everything was reversing. Jesus hadn't come back but the music still played.  


10:54 AM
The time lapse captured it beautifully. I don't know how they did it...The light coming back was effervescent. It had viscosity mixed in. I don't have a word for it. It was pouring onto my street, as if from a vase. It didn't look regular. It was whiter. It reminded me of the textures of stadium lighting - and I wrote about that at the time. It was the same "Otherworldly" as before, on the other side of the house. It poured in through the branches of trees on my street. It wasn't smoky but it had substance, even while feeling like the thin air on Trail Ridge Road, above timberline - another experience I'd compare this to, from my childhood. It was thinner yet more full. It was whiter somehow. It didn't exactly swirl but you thought that it did. It was like pouring a potion of white into the street, as if mixing a drink. But it didn't exactly pour. It arrived. It filled in. It rose up. It was different. And it happened both fast and quite slow. The first part was as fast as the last part before. And then it lingered.

10:57 AM
The world took its time coming back to us, or so it seemed, my neighborhood returning, as if we'd all been away. It was like losing time. I was happy I felt this alone. I know others enjoyed being with people. I never saw a soul. Not a car or a walker - I just heard the music. No one else was in sight.  Later I saw the time lapse from Salem and re-read Annie's account. I realize even now I would not have had the same experience had I been looking at the tiny ring in the sky, to the south. And let's get that straight - Annie said it too - that ring those people saw is SO small - it isn't like most of the pictures or television. The sun is pulled like a thread through the eye of a needle. Perhaps the flares around it are large - so they say. It's like the sun is sucked into an aperture. I saw the effects. I saw Totality in a way with more totality by not seeing it (though I DID see it, quite "randomly", at the perfect moment, on TV.)
 

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