A Spin Around the Sun

Last night (September 20th)  a friend came out to my house for dinner, and in our conversation, as I recounted my travels, we realized it had been exactly a year ago to the day that I’d walked out of my empty house for the last time and spent my first night in Roadcinante.

I’d found a campground several miles north of Boone that you drive to by going up a narrow winding road that gradually climbs, then turning onto a gravel road that weaves higher still and delivers you out onto a large wide turtleback, thick trees surrounding the cleared area on all sides. The bathhouse was clean and new (the campground was four years old) with a lovely outside stainless steel double sink for doing dishes, and several tepees dotted the landscape.

I met one of the managers in a nifty little log cabin, where I checked in and bought some firewood. There were four or five other vehicles scattered around, which meant the place was about 2% full.

It’s funny to recall how shy and inept I felt. How I parked on my patch of grass and used the angled pieces of 2 X 4’s that Pastor, her previous owner, had made to put under the tires so that Roadcinante would be level (this took some doing – first this side, then that, stopping to check the level indicators fastened to the dashboard and the driver’s door, until both bubbles seemed satisfied to hover in the middle of their respective glass tube) and then pulling out the thick cable and fastening the giant three-pronged plug into the heavy rectangular surge protector, and then taking that giant three-pronged surge protector plug and pushing it into the 30amp receptacle affixed to the small metal pole at the corner of the site and flipping the switch to “on.”

I felt a little giddy, watching the bounce of the needle on the power gauge as electric power flowed in. I switched the refrigerator over from propane to electric and then opened the back door and pulled out the wooden drawer where I’d stowed my blue umbrella chairs, and lifted out one of them. I took a cold beer from my fridge and opened the chair, placing it in a shady spot under a towering oak and several smaller maple trees, and I sat down and surveyed my domain, trying to keep my cool, trying not to lose my shit completely.

Yeah. That’s right. I just moved out of my house into a nineteen-foot van. Mmm-hmmm. My dogs and I have nowhere to live now, except this nineteen-foot van, which I’ve committed to do for the next year, moving out of my house to do so. And then:  ohmigodwhathaveidonesweetjesusmarymotherofourlordwhattheacutalwhatwasithinking…

And it went on from there. Me trying to hold it together and keep the internal screams to a dull roar. I tried to read but could not concentrate. I tried to write but the words got stuck somewhere deep inside so I couldn’t cough up a single coherent sentence. As the sun sank behind the trees, a damp cool descended, long shadows creeping toward me on all sides. I made a fire, my very first one ever, and wonder of all wonders it was a doozy.

I pulled out some ground beef, onions and potatoes, carrots, green beans, squash, riffing on whatever was in my fridge, and used the picnic table as my outdoor kitchen, chopping and mixing and tossing the whole thing into my cast iron skillet with some olive oil and salt and pepper and Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, nesting the skillet into some hot coals. Then I opened another beer and pulled my umbrella chair next to the fire to tend it and my dinner, with the dogs’ bed beside me and Connor and Beasley milling around, wary of the scary flames but also appreciating the warmth.

I knew just how they felt. I was trying to make friends with the whole scary notion of my sojourn, frightened at the looming prospect of the next twelve months of unknowns and at the same time drawn, like to the fire, by the heat and excitement of the adventure that lay before me.

Dinner was good, very good. Clean-up took longer than I’d thought. By the time I’d tidied everything and removed any food traces to discourage wildlife visitation (we were definitely high enough and sparsely populated enough for bears), the sun had disappeared, which made the surrounding woods seem darker and closer. One by one, lights went out in the several RV’s up over the turtleback. I added the two remaining logs to the fire, sending hot sparks up into the night, and pulled my chair closer, leaning toward the flames and away from the cold air. The dogs huddled closer, too.

We sat there, silent, staring, and as the sky grew darker, the stars glittered ever more brightly. That was right around when a kind of peace settled over me, as if someone had, in passing by, paused to wrap a cloak around me. I felt cocooned by the dark rather than fearful of it. I felt comforted by the solitude rather than antsy. I felt satisfied with the simple meal and the song of the owls and the scurry of small critters along the forest floor. I felt relieved to be out of my house and on my way.

We slept well that night, the dogs and I.  I had no way of knowing then how amazing my journey would become. I had no way of knowing the wonders I’d see along the way and the wondrous people I’d cross paths with and how I’d be enriched by all of it. I also had no way of knowing there would be many more times of questioning my own wisdom, wondering at the decision I had made and the pilgrimage I had undertaken, even in the very middle of doing it.

But…

Last week I had the distinct privilege of speaking at Wingate University’s Fall Lyceum event, offering readings from this “Chasing Light” blog and hanging around after to visit and talk with students. One young man asked me straightaway, “Would you do it again?” and I answered without hesitation, “In a heartbeat.”

And I would. Even with the doubts and fears and second-guessing that could at times be paralyzing, I would do it all over again. I feel so fortunate to have been able to make the trip. And while I am still digesting, revisiting, sorting through notes, working on chapters for the memoir, pulling together that book proposal, in the very back of my mind in a teeny tiny corner with its hands sweetly folded is an awareness, a very quiet one because I have asked it to sit patiently for a while, but an awareness nonetheless that somewhere up in the road ahead is another journey, a different kind, who knows what kind right now? But it’s out there somewhere, waiting its turn. And now I know for certain – it will call to me when the time is right. And of course, I will thrash a little and angst a moment and then answer, “I’m in. Where to now?”

Today is the last official day of summer. Tomorrow, some time around 4pm in the afternoon in my neck of the woods, the Autumnal Equinox will occur, when the sun shines on the equator and night and day are divided nearly equally. Meanwhile, sweet Mother Earth continues her spins around the sun, and the sun, together with all its orbiting planets, continues in its spiraling forward-moving dance, ferrying us all along, on and on into  the universe.

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In Transit

Definition of transition (from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)

1 –  a: passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another :  change; b: a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another

2-   a: a musical modulation; b: a musical passage leading from one section of a piece to another

3 – an abrupt change in energy state or level (as of an atomic nucleus or a molecule) usually accompanied by loss or gain of a single quantum of energy

From the Latin transire meaning “to go or cross over.”

Since we are living, breathing organisms, we are always in transition. Our bodies are continually exchanging dying cells for new ones, such that every several years “we” have been entirely replaced.

Some transitions are bigger than others. Graduations. New jobs. Going from single to partnered. From childless to parent. From partnered to single. From daughter to orphan. From faith to doubt. From young to old.

From living in a home to living on the road. And now?

Coming back has been harder than leaving, I think. How can that be?

Something happened out there, in the glens and the glades, among the mesas and the buttes, by the ocean, through the deserts, beneath the towering redwoods, at the feet of the massive mountain ranges, along the thousands of miles of pavement. I was…changed. Uprooted. Familiar comforts removed. My living space shrunk to a mere 30” X 9’. My few belongings carefully selected – books, essential clothing, some manuscripts, meaningful keepsakes from family and friends. Herbs and spices and favorite kitchen gadgets.

Having confessed my shadowy doubts, I shed them like an old coat I’d worn too long, leaving me vulnerable and uncovered. Receptive. Seeking.

I opened myself in order to draw to myself those people, those conversations, those experiences, those vistas, those moments, crystallized, that help ground me in whatever this new thing is. This new me that I apparently had to drive after, pursue across 12,000 miles to snag in my net, bring home to examine.

I have no idea what any of this means, but it means something. I am finding out, sitting here in my old home feeling like a shy visitor, perching, really, as if I’m a bird that may at any moment be shooed away. The things I once loved about being out here, eight miles from the edge of town, with the owls calling in the trees by night and the bees humming in the warm air by day, the rustle and snort of unseen grazing deer in the dense grasses and wild rose bushes of the field next door, the front porch where I once sat and watched hummingbirds do battle over the red-blossomed feeder – these charms no longer hold sway over me.

I don’t belong here anymore. I am ready to go, ready for the next thing. It’s just that I don’t know what that is right now.

Meanwhile, California and Oregon and Washington and Idaho and Montana are burning, millions of acres consumed, leaving scorched earth and devastation behind. Texans are trying to recover from Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma has devastated homes and lives in the Caribbean and is, at this moment, bearing down on Florida and the Carolinas.

It is not lost on me that I am whining about having to come home when so many have nothing but devastation to return to, when so many eat, breathe, sleep horrific loss and sorrow. The world is on fire, the world is besieged by murderous winds and thrashing waters, apocalyptic videos landing in our in-boxes, on our social media pages.

And yet…this is still a time of enormous upending transition about which I feel the need to be fully honest. It’s not that I don’t count my blessings, moment by moment. I do. I see my privilege, unearned, my fortune, undeserved.

But I struggle with the knowledge of a disturbing truth – I don’t belong here anymore. I don’t belong in the old life I walked out of. And I’m finally getting to see that’s okay.

Now I am trying to trust, as the 14th century Christian mystic Julian of Norwich offered, that “all is well and all is well and all manner of thing shall be well.” I am trying to practice some of what I learned out there on the road, when I would project out several weeks and realize with some panic that I did not yet know where I was going and the wide-openness of it would cause my heart to thump. I would have to remind myself, I would most certainly be somewhere, and I could trust it would be okay.

I remember what a treasured new friend made along the way said each time we parted: “Safe passage,” she would tell me, and I would see myself as she had wished it, passing through the narrows, delivered at just the right time to the next right place.

It is in these moments, realizing that somehow I have been safely delivered back home, that I recall my lifelong pattern of mistrusting how I will get from “here” to “there,” wondering how it ever can be, and after the fact marveling at the miracle of it all. How true are Nelson Mandela’s words of encouragement, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

Then I recall a discovery in the first weeks back in North Carolina, when I was parked in my daughter and son-in-law’s driveway, when the cicadas were still brand spanking new and shouting about it.

How my daughter and I found a just-hatched emerald-hued cicada drying its golden wings in the late summer sun, its brown shell cracked open and discarded. How the cicada, leaning into its new estate, vulnerable and disoriented, could not see the empty shell, could not recognize the old container, had no awareness of how it had emerged into daylight.

And how could it? In the process, it had become a whole new creature altogether.

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So You Want To Hit the Road…

Many of you have expressed the desire and/or fervent hope to make a big journey of your own. I thought I’d take a moment and share some things I’ve learned over the past year, since I found and bought Roadcinante (gosh, it has been a year!), emptied my house, and hit the road.

  1. Depending on the kind of vehicle you opt for – whether you want a Class B like mine or a fifth wheel or trailer, or for you brave souls who opt for a Class C – you’ll want to do lots of homework and find out the pluses and minuses of each option. In addition to this info on Wikipedia, there are great forums where you can look over other people’s shoulders (I learned a lot this way) as they ask questions, or join in the conversation.

I decided on a used Roadtrek, since new ones are prohibitively expensive and also they hold their value very well. That way if I bought one and hated it, or figured out I really did not want to travel around the country in a 19-foot van, I could easily unload it.

I spent nearly two years, on and off, looking for my Roadtrek, since the brand is quite in demand, there aren’t a lot of them made, and people tend to hold onto them for dear life. Along the way, I learned everything I could about the specs, the differences between the models, the pluses and minuses of engine types, sleeping and kitchen layouts, and basic pricing.

When I knew I was ready to buy mine, I spent six months obsessively cruising three different websites (this one is my favorite), and got myself on email lists with dealers as well, letting them know what I was looking for.

I confess to the instant “buyer’s remorse” I always get when I make a big decision. Driving back from Valdosta, Georgia to my home in the North Carolina mountains, I had plenty of time to berate myself: “What the hell have you done?!?” about every eighty miles or so. It was a huge outlay of money, and my quixotic quest still seemed half-nuts to me, even though I had gone all in by committing to rent my house.

I also know that dynamic of fear and anxiety well enough that I just let the haranguing go on while I enjoyed to the point of giddiness the feel of Roadcinante on the open road and the thought of the adventures to come. My excitement quickly edged out my fears of having made a mistake.

  1. For those of you for whom such a journey would represent a major shift, you are likely planning to offload a good portion of your stuff. (That process could honestly be a book in itself!) It takes a certain mental readiness, which can be years in the making, but you may find, like I did, that your subconscious has already been working for a while to loosen your grip on your belongings.

My readiness was hastened, because I was the executrix of my mother’s estate, and after spending a year agonizing over those collectibles she had left – handmade doilies and novelty depression glass pieces and framed photographs of relatives I’d never known, and a roomful of other stuff – I knew I did not want my children to ever have to go through the same stressful process.

In short, there was a lot of – let’s just say it, junk –  that no one wanted, but my sense of responsibility to my mother’s wishes (“Don’t let this get out of the family!”) and my own emotional attachments to the items (“Those are doilies made by my great-grandmother…awwwww…I can still see her sitting in that Queen Anne chair with Tom, the orange marmalade cat, in her lap, gazing out through the wavy-glassed window to the blooming azaleas and the quiet steps where I used to play…” Never mind that my great-grandmother was a tiny, fierce battle-ax of a woman of whom my sisters and I were more than a little afraid.) caused a good deal of free-floating guilt.

But watch out. Once you make your first big donation or sell your first pieces of furniture, believe me, it can be like floodgates opening. The purge takes on a joyful, heady momentum of its own. And as your house clears out and you begin to see floor space and daylight – well, I’m just saying, that burgeoning sense of freedom can become habit-forming.

  1. Deciding what to bring is a whole other prospect. And no matter how many times you sort and cull and sort and cull some more, you will bring too much stuff. We’re Americans. We’re consumers. We have been swimming in the air of acquisition as a lifetime goal, trained to buy bigger and bigger houses to accommodate more and more stuff. Until one day we may look around and notice, it is beginning to look like our stuff owns us.

No matter. Choose carefully, pack up your vehicle, budget some money in anticipation of finding a halfway point where you can ship items home. Because you will likely be surprised to find how little you need. You may find, like I did, that I rotated about five different combinations of jeans, pants, shorts, short-sleeved tops, long-sleeved shirts, and sweaters. The rest, rolled neatly and packed into the two drawers – one for tops, one for bottoms – were never touched. And that was for seven full months.

I did bring a dress – a sleeveless black knit pullover knee-length dress that I could wear in hot weather with a scarf and sandals or in cooler weather, with boots and a sweater. I wore it once, out to dinner with pals in Bozeman.

(One of my sweet nieces took me shopping at her favorite upscale consignment store in Arlington, Virginia and bought me a “Claire Underwood” black wool knit dress with long sleeves and an offset neckline. That was just in case I got to have lunch with Oprah for some reason or ran into Jeff Bridges while in Livingston, Montana. That dress is still hanging in my tiny RV closet. I will wear it someday. Oh, yeah. I’ll wear it.)

  1. If you are bringing pets along, work with your vet to put together a first aid kit of things you might need. At Goodwill, I found a large compartmented tote with lots of Velcro and zippers that had been a Tupperware salesperson’s demo bag. In it went bandages, tape, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, triple antibiotic ointment, scissors, styptic pencil, monthly flea and tick and heartworm meds, antibiotics, prednisone, Benadryl (for allergic reactions but also for Fourth of July fireworks!), anti-inflammatory tablets, antacid pills, digital thermometer, and five “MRE’s” for dogs, packets where you add water and stir for a full meal, in case I ran out of food and couldn’t find the kind my dogs ate.

And, very important, don’t depart without an updated copy of your pet(s)’ medical records, both hard copy and a PDF your vet has emailed to you,so that you have access to them on your phone.

Along the way, I utilized a service called Rover.com for doggy-daycare. I had four excellent experiences – in Florida, Southern Cali, Northern Cali, and Washington – and recommend it highly. It’s a national network of pet sitters, and a really great option for road warriors.

Definitely do internet searches to see about emergency pet clinics and veterinarian’s offices in the places you are traveling to. That way if illness or injury occurs, you are as ready as you can be. I relied on Yelp reviews and, of course, if I knew anyone in that area, asked for personal recommendations.

I felt completely safe with my two big behemoths. When they heard noises outside Roadcinante, they offered menacing growls and loud barks. Plus, Connor never did suffer any fools. But if you feel like extra security would be nice, or you are traveling without a dog, I’ve read some people bring along an air horn. Others favor things that I would most likely hurt myself with, like mace or firearms. But to each her own.

Let me know of specific questions you have, and I’ll be happy to respond. I’m excited for any and all of you preparing to set out. I can say without doubt, “Chasing Light” has been – continues to be – profoundly life-altering for me.

By the way, as promised, here is the link to the podcast with the full interview with the delightful Dennise Kowalczyk at KBOO Community Radio in Portland, Oregon.

And…a bit of wonderful news to share. I’ve been selected to receive of a North Carolina Artist Fellowship for 2017-2018 for my “Chasing Light” memoir-in-progress. Thrilled, amazed, humbled, and honored. You can read more about the fellowship and the other eighteen recipients here.

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Light Leaks Out

It was easy getting there.

I left last Friday, stopping first at the local radio station for a brief interview, then heading west through Tennessee to the town of Crossville, where I checked in at the KOA. I had expected traffic to be heavy, but the only slowdown, and it wasn’t significant, was through Knoxville.

My family lived in Knoxville for three years. I attended Sequoyah Elementary the first year, walking to school every day with a big-toothed boy who lived behind us named “Buzzy” (given name: Stonewall) Biggers. When we moved out to Riverbend, I rode the bus to Bearden Elementary. Bearden is the first place I remember Civil Defense drills, where we all had to get under our desks to practice in case of a nuclear attack.

Oak Ridge, part of the Manhattan Project is a stone’s throw from Knoxville. My teacher took us there once on a field trip. All I remember is seeing a piece of bread under glass, as if it was a treasured bit of art. It had been irradiated and had been there for a year, still looking fresh, she told us, her cheeks flushed with excitement. I remember being afraid to get too close.

I went back to Knoxville once, in 2008. I drove over with a friend and stopped by both schools, drove past our old house in Sequoyah Hills and then out to Riverbend. We pulled up into the curved driveway, where for a split second I had a flash of my dad washing his British Racing Green Jaguar XK140 in the hot Tennessee sun.

A man came out when we drove up, and when I told him I used to live there, he invited us inside and let us roam around. He had questions about kitchen improvements and additions, a few of which I could actually answer. It was completely surreal, to stand in my old bedroom and look out the back window toward the pine trees, remembering how when I was eight my sister Debbie, now gone for thirty-seven years, let me borrow her record player and a few Ricky Nelson 45’s that I listened to over and over and over.

The Crossville KOA was nearly empty. Next door was a fenced-in field with two caramel-colored mules wandering around. One of them fell in love with Beasley who could not stop freaking out.

Saturday I stopped in Brentwood at a Whole Foods to get some fruit and veggies and then hit the REI store and bought a two-person backpacking tent, small and light and easy to store in Roadcinante and perfect for Beasley and I to sleep in.

I kept waiting for the awful traffic. The closer I got to Hopkinsville (renamed Eclipseville for the momentous occasion), the more signs I saw warning me how bad it was going to get, but it never did. I pulled into town around 5:30 and checked in with ease. After fumbling a bit with the tent, I realized I was making it too difficult. Basically, you take everything out of the nylon bag, wink at it, clap twice, and it puts itself up.

Things were well-organized and clean and the gathering crowd was fairly chill and in high spirits. I treated myself to a barbequed pork sandwich from one of the food trucks and bedded down early.

Sunday was scary-hot, with highs in the mid-90’s and humidity over 70%, so that the heat index was around 105°F. Beasley and I kept making trips back to Roadcinante to sit in the air-conditioning, but it was hard to keep ahead of the fluid loss, my face and body dripping with sweat. It was a day to endure, is the best way I can describe it.

More people arrived to set up tents and I heard a few tentative firecrackers, but the Hopkinsville police were very present. The air finally cooled around 8:30 that night, heavy dew covering the thick grass and wetting the tent fly. A nice breeze swept through at ground level.

Monday I got up early – around 5:15 – and news stations were already reporting “live from Hopkinsville with coast to coast coverage.” You could feel the energy start to amp up, an air of excitement that built as the crowd grew.

Around 10:00 the Voodoo Bone Lady swept in, drawing an immediate gathering of both children and adults, lured by her brightly-colored clothing and the two Chinese Rat Snakes she wore coiled around one arm like an exotic bracelet. She let me take her picture and told me she had come all the way from New Orleans “to be in this energy and to pray for humanity.”

By 11:00 a couple of folks from NASA arrived and began passing out book marks with eclipse information and graphics printed on them. They also came with boxes full of eclipse glasses. A tall thin man set up a PA system and the burly NASA guy, who was from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, stepped up and gave a nice long talk, offered lots of warnings about how to protect your eyes, and answered a bunch of questions.

He got lots of applause. It was like having a rock star in the house. I overheard one of the men behind me excitedly saying, “This is a huge nerdfest!” and I turned to nod and give him a thumbs up, which he returned. “Yeah!” he said, scanning the crowd fondly. “People who think like me!”

I knew what he meant. People who get excited at finding a cicada shell. People who bring home rocks and shells and bits of tree bark or interesting hunks of wood. People who get stiff necks looking up at the stars at night, falling headlong into the beautiful swirl of the Milky Way.

People who travel from points south, east, north, and west (one vendor said they met someone who had come from the Netherlands; I met a guy from Australia who was with a friend who’d come from Switzerland) to stand in a hot field on a muggy day and have our minds blown, one incremental movement of moonshadow at a time.

While we waited for the eclipse to begin, several people sat out in the sun, but most of us stayed in the pavilion. It was heading toward the 90’s again, clear with no cloud cover. Waves of heat rolled through the pavilion. I had a bottle of frozen water that I kept applying to the sweatiest parts – my forehead, the back of my neck, my chest – and alternated Gatorade and water until I thought I might float away.

Beasley, champ that he is, mostly laid on the cool cement floor. Once in a while he’d lap some water from his bowl, but mostly he stayed still. Oh, until his fan base stopped by. At least a dozen adults and children had fallen in love with him and kept checking back to say hi, to pat his silky neck, to scratch his ears, his side. Several located his tickle spot, laughing at his cycling back leg. He was the most popular dog there, for sure.

At 2:30 that morning, when I’d gotten up to go to the bathroom, in the dark along the sidewalk we passed a police officer we’d met earlier that day. “Hi, Beasley!” she said as we walked by, touching the top of his head.

Also that morning I had caught the second toe of my right foot in the lip of the tent and fell, spilling half my freshly brewed Italian roast coffee, getting grass clippings all over my legs, and either breaking the toe or injuring the joint (something went “snap”), after which I couldn’t really walk on that foot. Thus was the planned sojourn up to Louisville scotched for now. And thus was my general rule not to use the M-F word before 9 a.m violated.

Back to Eclipseville. The fervor grew; you could feel it. What had been a quiet murmuring of voices as people played cards, sat and talked, pulled out picnic lunches, or cooked on camp stoves, had become a steady low din of lively chatter.

And then it was time. All of a sudden, it was time. People began wandering out onto the grass, lying down or reclining in folding chairs, their eyes covered with eclipse glasses of all manner, goggles, some even wearing welding helmets. We got quieter. We became still.

I popped in and out of the pavilion, checking on the progress, watching the sun be devoured, slow bite by slow bite. And then the NASA guy called out, “Two minutes!”

By then the temperature had cooled considerably. The lighting had become eerie, other-worldly. I brought Beasley out with me and laid down in the grass with people on either side of me. Beasley circled three times, plopped down, and went right to sleep.

The crowd became restive. There was a long collective sigh, getting louder and louder, until a dad behind to my left said to his son, “There it is! You can take your glasses of now!” and I watched the last spark of the sun go out and just at the moment of total darkness through the glasses, I took mine off and along with everyone else, gasped, then applauded. In fact, I sat up and opened my arms and shouted something. I have no idea what.

The locusts were howling. Jupiter came out. I could not take my eyes off the lid of the world that had just been put on. I could not stop gaping, slack-jawed, at the brilliant corona leaking out into the darkness.

And then it was over. Two minutes and forty seconds. It was over. More cheering. A few firecrackers.

People got up, began packing. Groups of people, leaving. Totality being the apparent height of wonder (who can argue?), they left for home.

I watched, on and off, as the sun came back, the heat returning with it.

By 5 p.m. when I took down my tent, the place was nearly empty, the vast fields slightly trampled but none the worse for wear. Traffic was light as I drove the two hours to Buffalo, Tennessee, and the sun put on another show in a beautiful sunset I caught just as I crossed over the Cumberland River. Since no one else was on the road, I slowed way down and put on my eclipse glasses again to see the red ball of fire sinking into the western trees.

I stayed at a campground just south of there, falling into bed early, Beasley snoring beside me.

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Into The Dark

Tomorrow I leave for Hopkinsville, Kentucky, where I will view the total solar eclipse with tens of thousands of others as we descend on this town of 33,000 and possibly double its size.

Things I’m looking forward to:

  • traveling again (oh, that open road!)
  • live music
  • food truck food
  • a general air of good-natured mayhem
  • a for-real genuine NASA staff person who will wow us with her or his knowledge of the orbs and spheres and universal planetary and stellar amazingness
  • being part of a giant crowd of people wearing magic cardboard eclipse glasses, all gaping together up at the sky like overjoyed kindergartners

Things I’m a little uncertain about:

  • traveling with the holding tank still not repaired (that means no on-board toilet)
  • traveling without Connor
  • spending the night in a tent with Beasley
  • er. mah. gawr. all. that. traffic.

Things I will do just ‘cause I hafta:

  • share port-a-potties with the masses
  • get over abutting other tents (too intense…?), since it’s not actually a campground but an “area” that has been taped and gridded into 190 “sites”
  • in general reach down and find all my patience and humor and compassion, since they are all likely to be tested at least once or twice during the journey to and from and the three days camping

I’ve been reading a lot about ancient civilizations and how ancient peoples explained eclipses – Vikings believed a pair of ravenous wolves ate the sun and the moon; in Korea, fire dogs were trying to steal the orbs from the heavens.

A Hindu demon’s head was thought to trail around the sky, waiting for a moment to devour the sun and leave the world in darkness.

An African myth held that the sun and the moon were embattled, and the eclipse was the acting out of their reconciliation. Navajo tradition held that the eclipse was the out-of-balance cosmic order righting itself.

In preparation for the trip to Louisville that will follow, I’ve been reading a book called Lament of the Dead, which is a transcribed conversation between two Jungian analysts about “psychology after Jung’s Red Book.” The Red Book is noted psychologist Carl Jung’s mystical collection of artwork and visionary writings about inner journeys he undertook at night in private, delving into the other world of the unconscious. The collection of manuscripts was kept in a secret folio, safeguarded by the family after Jung’s death, but rumors abounded, and finally his family agreed to its publication, which process in and of itself is a story of mystery and intrigue.

Jung’s dreamtime travels were to him like immersing in, swimming in the sea of universal or “collective” unconscious, which includes all the souls of the world, living and dead. You could say he went into the dark to find illumination.

“Then turn to the dead, listen to their lament and accept them with love,” he wrote, hinting at the unfinished business (unlived dreams) he believed the dead bequeath to the following generations.

Fascinating stuff. I am preparing to go to a couple of cemeteries in Louisville where relatives have long slept. There I will sit and listen. For the untold stories. For the unrealized dreams. For their wisdom and advice.

Wishing you all a Happy Eclipse, wherever you will be viewing. In that darkness that is not darkness, may new imaginings come to light!

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