The sky during totality of the Full Solar Eclipse as seen from Fall Creek Falls state park in Tennessee.
Greetings Fellow Space Travelers, Happy Freyja’sDay!
Lawd, but I’ve had a roller-coaster sort of week.
Of course, most of my weeks are roller-coasters, but this week in particular had some high-high-highs and low-low-lows.
Regardless, I managed to #DoTheF%^&!#*Work, keep an even keel, and in general, choose love over fear. Sometimes that’s more difficult than others – especially when I’m tired. Or hungry. Or tired and hungry …or worse, fatigued and in pain/hurt and hungry.
So, yeah – I think it’s a healthy practice to be aware of factors that let me know I need to treat both myself and the rest of the world with kid gloves.
“Know Thyself” (gnothi seauton) – not just pretty words. I’m pretty sure they help the whole world.
Currently I’m listening to “Dieuzbu” by Musa Dieng Kala. I don’t always listen to music when I write …but this stuff puts me in a very specific place, and equally specific mood. The place, is Dancemeditation™ Summer Movement Monastery (for some reason – it’s always Summer when I hear it.) And the mood is open, curious, expansive.
Knowing how music affects me, I’ve come to a place in Life where I mostly use music to alter my moods.
I still listen to the radio in the car, and sometimes in the house. I have to listen to music (often new, and wildly off my own beaten-musical-paths) in order to lead Pound® classes – the best thing about this being that it’s usually inspirational or at least the right music to dispel excess or angry energy. 😀
In the last year my life has become configured in a way that leaves a lot of room for silence too, and I’ve come to appreciate this more than words can express.
So, I use music to take me specific places; lead me out of dark places should my mind wander into tangle-y territories in which the way out is obscured. I use music to expel icky-ness, lift my Spirit, help me find my happy.
…which, as it turns out is exactly how I’ve always used music. It’s just that now I do it with express intent. Mostly.
Knowing this about myself makes being cheerful so much easier. There are days when I can keep myself centered, tapped into Source, tapped into my own Power and remembering who I AM, but having tools to help get me there more quickly is quite handy.
Last weekend I, and two of the closest-to-me-humans (who are not blood-family) packed ourselves into a Ford cargo van and drove 9 hours in the middle of the night with the battle cry of, “Sparta by Dawn!”
Our destination: Sparta, TN (Shelly calculated that this would be the almost exact center of the 73 mile-wide path of Solar Eclipse’s Totality, 2min 40sec worth.)
Our plan: Drive to Sparta. Find someplace we would be allowed to park the van by noon Sunday. Park the van. Calibrate the telescope. Wait. Witness a total solar eclipse. Drive home before work Tuesday morning – if traffic allowed.
…so, it turns out that when you set your navigation for a city, (just the city, not anyplace in particular in the city) the navigation will take you to the center of the city. In this case it was the Court House. So, at 5 o’clock Sunday August 20th, we found ourselves sitting in the parking lot of the Sparta City Court House attempting to determine the next step in our plan.
A minor miracle, but I had cell coverage, and so did use the Googles only to find there was a doughnut shop less than a mile from our location that was indeed open. We headed for the doughnut shop. Alas, as with all great internet portals, the one found had not yet been updated with the closing of said doughnut shop.
And a great sadness descended, but only until the top of the next hill, because there was a convenience store that was open. No doughnuts, but a restroom, a super-friendly attendant, and lots of information. Score!
We were told about Burgess Falls, that it was beautiful, and had camping. Again, score!
Once we arrived, we realize that they did not in fact have camping, but they did have a lovely parking lot in front of the ranger’s station, and they opened at 8am – just two and a half hours away. We piled up like sardines in the back of the van and promptly fell into a weird, but dead sleep.
Not too long after 8, we were aroused by a tap on the driver’s side window, and Shelly hopped out of the back of the van to greet a very wary ranger. We could not blame him.
After we explained what we were on about, the ranger brought us literature, and told us not only everything about the Burgess Falls, but also how many phone calls they’d received asking about viewing the total solar eclipse. Needless to say – that number was ‘a lot’. He also told us our best bet for camping was definitely Fall Creek Falls.
Because I’m a super-freak about having food and comforts when we go on road trips, I’d made a thermos of coffee before leaving the house the night before …and thank Stanley, the coffee was still brilliantly hot. Inside the park, we sat at a picnic table beneath a huge pavilion, drank coffee, ate fruit, and stared off into the distance, because – tired.
Afterward, we walked down to the first fall which was amazing (you know – to flat land, swamp-dwellers.) Apparently it’s a pretty decent (intense) 3/4 mile hike up to the big waterfall, and we really wanted to get to someplace to set up the telescope and make camp. That really was the only next part of our plan that mattered.
Back in the wagon, and back down the road we’d come up. Fall Creek Falls was on our way into Sparta, so it meant re-tracing our steps, and we knew it would be crowded …but we really had no idea.
At Fall Creek Falls, the rangers told us that they’d been booked to capacity for 5 months. There were no campsites, no RV pads, no nothing.
Ranger: “Oh, wait? You have everything you need? You don’t need electricity, or water, or anything?”
Ranger: “Oh, well, Why didn’t you say so! That’s a horse of a different color!” <—They didn’t say that 😉 I’m just fooling. But really – it kind of felt that way.
What they did tell us was that there was an “Overflow parking lot” where the old horse stables used to be. There were also port-a-potties. SCORE!
No, really – that will be fine. Yes. Quite perfect actually. More than we hoped for. Yes, please. Thank you.
Without too much trouble, we found the parking lot, avec port-a-potties, and realized we were the first ones there. We broke out the gear and set to work hanging Kryss’ hammock (yes! TREES!), breaking out the chips and homemade guacamole, and I queued up ‘The Man’ – Marvin Gaye on my speaker.
No sooner had we gotten settled in when a ranger arrived to let us know that we weren’t actually in the overflow parking lot, that we should follow the road, back around the stables, up the new gravel driveway, and into the pasture beyond.
With only a bit of grumbling, we threw everything back into the van and headed on up the driveway. It turned out, we were still the first ones there. In a huge field. With trees. …and for real – there was what appeared to be a newly constructed bath house. Only the toilets and sinks worked, but – are you kidding me? Overflow? No entry fee? Working toilets and running water? Uhm, HA! SCORE!
Well, here we were. 2 hours ahead of our ‘Sunday noon’ schedule, Kryss’ hammock was re-hung, chicken salad sandwiches* were being made, and Shelly was pulling out the telescope to line up the angle of the Sun’s path and make sure his solar filter worked.
A couple of hours later another individual arrived in his car, parking beneath the same tree under which we had first parked. And so we pointed out the precariously dead limbs immediately above his car.
He thanked us and introduced himself. “Cody, from Ontario.” (I wish I’d’ve thought to ask ‘which part?” duh?)
He turned out to be alright …I mean, Canadian – right? and we later found out, did not drink coffee, but was totally down with a Vodka Gimlet.
After checking out the situation and telling us that he wasn’t married to the idea of any one spot, but this one seemed okay, he took off to go check out the sights. We were set, and not going anywhere, so made ourselves as comfortable as possible in the growing heat.
Except for talking, sleeping, taking pictures of random weird flora, eating, drinking, watching butterflies, dragonflies, bees, smaller bee-like insects, spiders, you know – stuff in fields on the edge of a funky-low-land forest? We watched all that stuff happen, were grateful for the fairly constant breeze, talked about – everything, and watched a few more vehicles dribble in then park at the other-end of the field.
In general, it was a lovely day.
Eventually a few people chose to set up camp near us. Most of them came over and introduced themselves, which was nice. Cody came back and set up camp, not under the widow makers. After supper we set up the solar shower and each got cleaned up with clean clothes …and immediately sprayed down with Off. Seriously. The night-bugs were out of hand, although the nice feature of night-time bugs was getting to watch the bats hunt.
By the time we were ready to go to bed, not too long after dark because there were enough people in the field to make it difficult to do any stargazing with the telescope, just from the light of the flashlights (we weren’t allowed open fires.)
I make a point of this because I had to get up to use the restroom around 3 o’clock in the
morning. And I was blown away.
It’s probably been two decades since I’ve seen the Milky Way, full on. I almost cried. I’d forgotten how brilliant it feels – how it affects the place where my heart and guts are all tied up together. I’d forgotten the finger-like pattern, how sharp the outline is when the sky is truly dark.
The dew had already dropped. It was damp, wet, colder than it
had been inside the van, I still had to pee …and I just stood there getting eaten by bugs, taking it all in.
Those of us who’d spoken had similar stories: Not last minute, but not with any real plan other than where we were now, not too interested in ‘chasing’ the eclipse should there be clouds at any point, wanting to take pictures – but not going to miss out on the experience of the event to get caught up in any technology.
When we woke up around 8 or 9 Monday morning, we discovered that many people had either already left or were in the process of packing up. By 10, most of the field had emptied, and where we had awakened to brilliant blue skies, there were now looming, ominous clouds.
The same people we’d spoken with the night before all hug about, jokingly – but seriously – talking about dispelling the clouds.
The energy of the morning crackled. I mean, it could have been the coffee, but still – there was a distinct charge.
We laughed. We amused one another, got to know each other. Told stories about motorcycles, motorcycle trips, trips across country, why we’d come, what we expected …
….which turned out to be nothing. All of us.
None of us expected anything to happen. Cody – who drove 15 hours, was just there for the experience.
All of us. We were there for the experience.
For real. …okay, yeah, we wanted to see a total solar eclipse, but we were going to make the best of it, not matter what. (Totally my people.)
It was only 20 minutes before totality when the clouds not only dispersed, but disappeared completely. Without trace.
The crowd went wild.
Everyone reacted in a completely different way, absorbing the experience through their own, prominent senses. It was beautiful to witness.
Someone noticed the cicada beginning to sing, another noticed the other night-time bugs in general begin to stir in anxious ways. Someone noticed the temperature dropping – significantly. All I could do was stand back and take it all in.
We all had on our solar filter glasses, or welding glass, or something. The eclipse had already begun, almost an hour earlier, so some people pulled out blankets and just laid back, ready to watch, and take it all in.
Shelly had the telescope already set up, complete with solar-filter, and a camera positioned over the eye piece. People were able to watch a close up of the eclipse through the camera’s screen – a few people took pictures of the camera …taking a picture.
Soon we were able to see both Venus and Jupiter occupying almost opposite positions in the sky.
And the sky while ‘dark’ was not ‘night’.
None of us expected this. Which I still think is funny – because there is probably video or at least documentation that talks about this. The sky stays blue. It just gets …dark. Dark enough to see really bright, and well placed planets.
We all totally cheered about the planets.
Then, all awesomeness broke loose and the Moon completely covered the Sun – well, you know, except for that huge glaring white bit around the edges 🙂
We full on cheered that too.
All of us. It was beautiful.
And, as all the reports will probably say, “Indescribable.”
It is probably describable, but I think that all of the emotions and sensations – all of the information that’s being received into any individual is simply SO MUCH that just processing all of it – seems as though it will be – indescribable.
I’m still not sure how to process it all.
Immediately following the totality, someone on the other side of the field with a boombox, (who also had a telescope set up) started playing “The Dark Side of the Moon” – the album, from the beginning …from – that voice. I do not mind saying, the chills running down my spine were thrilling.
I’ve basically just written a short story. Because I didn’t feel I could condense it.
Because somehow – everything – the fact that the numbers “8111” and “111” followed us – this entire trip, from highway numbers and road signs, to license plates and serial numbers. The fact that all of the details, all along the way really seemed to matter more… seeing the Milky Way for the first time in forever, hearing a woodpecker at the exact, right moment in a conversation. Watching butterflies …everywhere, while talking about, and waiting for transformation. The fact that it’s been three weekends in a row that I’ve occupied space with folks who are just as passionate about Life as I am. The fact that we shared this (often) once in a lifetime (if ever) event, excitedly, and passionately with 8 random strangers, and all exchanged personal information?
Because I guess this is Life. And sometimes, all Life is about is taking it all in. Whenever, and wherever we can get that.
We lost an hour, from the time totality ended until we actually started getting ready to leave the site. C’est la.
Everyone hugged, exchanged well-wishes, gave our Canadian friend a go-cup with the last of the Gimlet, and headed on down the road.
The trip home seemed quick, even at 9 hours. But the company was good. The traffic wasn’t as horrible as we had anticipated.
Shelly’s Pictures are linked here if you’d like to check them out.
*A friend of ours, Sydney Landry, is famous for her chicken salad. For years when we all performed together, every time we traveled she would have at least one kind of chicken salad on hand, ready to make a quick sandwich. Whenever. Wherever. For me, this became the perfect road food and I feel weird if we don’t have it on road trips.
The Happy Freyja’sDay Dance video from this morning is below, & as always, I hope you dance along.
Until next time, I hope you get to spend time with people you love doing stuff that fills you up and brings you joy!
~Shamsi, Charlie, Me
Happy Freyja’sDay World!
Next week my Shamsi-schedule over at Crescent Lotus is:
Mon – PoundFitness® 5:15PM (This is our LAST Monday night class!)
Tue – PoundFitness® 6PM followed by Anatomy of Bellydance (A.o.B.) @ 7:15PM
Thu – PoundFitness® 5:30PM
Fri – PoundFitness® 9:30AM <—NEW TIME!!! We’re now an hour later on Friday Mornings!
Sat – PoundFitness® 9AM followed by Dancemeditation Basic Practices led by Kryss Statho
****PLEASE NOTE! Beginning Labor Day, September 4th, POUND FITNESS® on Monday nights @5:15pm is MOVING TO WEDNESDAY NIGHTS @6PM. STAY TUNED****