A Grand American Experience

Yesterday, after nearly 300 miles in the van, I arrived home. I was greeted with an apartment that no longer smelled like mine and sweet affection from my kitty girl. Five days earlier, five of us climbed into the van and headed north. We traveled nearly 500 miles that day. We were off to see the eclipse.

The afternoon before our trip, I drove 20 minutes to my brother’s house with my boy meowing in his crate. Uncle Vinnie would take care of him while my good friend Megan took care of my girl. Over dinner, he asked if I was ready for my trip, and I was. He then mentioned something he had heard on the news: “They say it is going to be clear everywhere except Nebraska.” I felt a subtle sting in my gut, but ignored it.

I began planning this trip more than a year ago. I may have set my sights on it about two years ago. The first hotel rooms were booked in January. One can plan and plot and reserve, but one cannot order in the weather.

Now, the trip plan started this year, but the plan for the experience started well before that. I have wanted to see a total solar eclipse as far back as I can remember. It’s a good thing I hadn’t researched the data back then; I would have been very disappointed to know that a span of 38 years would pass with no lunar shadows crossing the US of A. I was only nine years old when that last one caught the Northwest corner on February 26, 1979.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I’ve gone through some phases. In the years surrounding 2012, I was primarily focused on Astrology (and Astronomy). I didn’t just tell you about astrological configurations, I also told you about the things you could see in the sky: the Annular Eclipse & Venus Transit and the close conjunctions of Venus and Jupiter (like this one) being two prime examples.

In January, considering the nature of weather, we decided to book rooms in Lincoln, Nebraska. Lincoln just caught the northern edge of totality. In the worst case scenario, we could walk outside to see it. From there, the centerline could be reached by heading either due south or due west. And there were options in between. I figured, we would create a Plan A and a Plan B and go with whichever had better weather.

The shortest drive from Austin, TX to the path of totality was about 12 hours. We could have gone to Nashville in 14. I knew and had read that the chances for clearer skies were better in the west, so Nebraska was a fine choice. What I didn’t know at the time was this: the odds were much better in western Nebraska than in eastern Nebraska.

A couple of weeks ago, I sat down at the computer for two afternoons to compile all sorts of data that could come in handy once we were up there. I looked up places that were setting up for viewing in the two locations we had identified. There were wineries, fairgrounds, and a national monument (where NASA and Bill Nye were camping out). There were prairie fields, state reserves with hiking trails, and roof top bars. I thought to myself—I think we are set.

Before going forward, I need to go back. Given the subject of my blog, I want to expand on some context. The most current phase of my writing has been on alignment. With my progressed Mercury having moved into the sign of Cancer (after nearly my whole life with it in Gemini), my focused has decidedly evolved into the realm of feeling.

For months now, I have practiced harvesting good feelings. As with the oceans, it ebbs and flows. I have gained momentum, manifested some cool experiences, then slipped off when a particularly strong bout of contrast caused me to reel.

With all of our plans set and our mini-van loaded, the last bout of contrast of any magnitude was weather. It has been on my mind for days and much to my chagrin, the forecast was moving in the wrong direction. Ten days out, Monday was forecast as clear, but five days out, it was forecast as partly to mostly cloudy. Alas, we had to penetrate the state of Nebraska and watch the local news to get the complete story. If you’re checking on rain, you can do that from anywhere, but if you need to know not just the amount of clouds, but the type of clouds, you have to be local.

By then, my fretting paced within me. Storms were coming up from the south and pushing clouds into Nebraska. Missouri was gonna get the worst of it, the down pours in other words, but the visibility in nearly all of eastern Nebraska would be affected. By the looks of it, we couldn’t drive out of it without crossing nearly all of the state. Damn.

My first sleep in Nebraska was awful. I had watched the weather just before going to sleep, which was a bad choice. I spent the whole night searching for the eclipse and racing away from approaching storms. At one point in my dream, I looked down at my watch, which read 4:47 pm. I had missed the whole thing. Ugh.

No matter the level of ease or fret, the morning of the eclipse arrived. At day break, I looked outside and saw lots of clouds, but high clouds. That left me feeling optimistic.

After breakfast, I showered and got myself dressed. I was ready ahead of schedule, so decided to do a bit of alignment practice. I put my head phones on and played some music. Within seconds, I was flying high.

Again, I must pause to fill in some context.

Abraham teaches us the value of practice, and I reaped the benefit that morning. When you practice that high flying state, you get familiar with it. As with muscle memory, once you point yourself in its direction, you reach it easily. I had been decidedly practicing the weeks prior. On my walks, I would imagine the feeling of excitement growing as the sky darkened. I pictured the experience, but even more so, felt for it. Time and time again, I anticipated the wonder and splendor of it all.

Abraham reminds us that decisions are not at all significant compared to alignment. When I fretted, I worried about making the right decision in terms of location, but then I would remind myself of Abraham’s words and instead, reach for alignment.

Weeks earlier, when I was plotting our options, I happened upon a Plan C. A small town, skirting the center line sat half way between Plan A and Plan B. They advertised no eclipse plans whatsoever. I pulled up Google maps and activated Street View to check it out. The first picture that popped up struck me.

The architecture of the court house was beautiful, as was the square it sat on. This could be pleasant—I thought to myself. And it certainly would be easy. I was sure that Geneva, NE wouldn’t attract huge crowds given that they had no eclipse plans to speak of.

Interestingly, our travel route to Lincoln had us passing through either Geneva (Plan C) or Beatrice (Plan A). Something told me to suggest traveling through Geneva and all agreed. Coincidentally, we stopped in Geneva nearly exactly 24 hours before totality. Everyone seemed to love it. We spotted a band of Scandinavians setting up equipment for the grand viewing directly in front of the public library. That night, we decided to go with Geneva unless the weather report in the morning forced a change of plans.

Back to Monday morning just before my alignment practice, I was lathering up in the shower and thinking back while chatting with the Universe. I was asking (pleading) for sunny skies, while also reminding myself (a la Abraham) that it was already done. I had asked enough times; they knew exactly what I wanted. My real work was simply to listen to the guidance that was already available.

And that’s when I remembered the feeling I had when I first saw a picture of Geneva. I realized that they had told me, weeks earlier, that Geneva was the place to be. Upon realizing this, the excitement rolled in.

Now dressed, plugged in, and dancing away in my hotel room, I continue to think about Geneva and felt the joy. Joy indicates alignment. Feeling joy while focusing on Geneva meant it was the choice my higher self made for me. It was…the…place…to be. Focusing on that understanding took me that much higher. “Follow what feels better,” they say. Doing just that, I began jumping around my room like someone half my age (or maybe a quarter).

Given my mood, I volunteered to drive. We took I-80 west and then Route 81 south. The sky was blue streaked with white, but as we headed south, we approached a bank of cumulus bulbs of cotton candy. I saw it, but didn’t focus on it. I knew there was a high chance for clouds to roll over us, but I hoped it would be after the event. As I drove south, I realized we would reach those clouds before arriving.

Trust us—I heard in my head—you won’t be disappointed. It may not look good now, but wait.

We arrived in Geneva about 90 minutes before the partial eclipse started. The clouds were getting worse. 30 minutes after the partial eclipse began and 30 minutes before totality, the sky in front of the sun looked like this:

Noon looking South

Again, practice is key. If you looked only there, fret was easy to find. But this next image gives the bigger picture:

Noon Panorama

Totality would start at 1:00 pm. the sun would be due south at that time, the direction we were facing. The clouds were moving from west to east (from right to left in these pictures). The more optimistic among us pointed to the blue patch and said, “It’ll get here in time.” The worried thoughts within me added—and I hope the timing is right because there are more clouds behind it.

Through the eclipse glasses, the sun was intermittent. When the clouds were thin enough, you could see the moon biting away at the sun with the clouds wafting in front of it. At times, we could see nothing. At 12:30, I was able to capture this:

Partial Eclipse at 12:30 pm

The crescent was actually smaller than it looks in this picture. At about that time, the sky looked like this:

12:38 pm

Sure enough, the blue patch had arrived ahead of totality, but would it last? Would it hold?

Just more than 15 minutes before totality, this is what we saw. You can already see the quality of light changing.

12:43 pm. 17 min before Totality.

I didn’t take more pictures toward the west, but the clouds that had been there were loosening up. We had reached the sunny patch, and it was growing. By this point, our confidence mostly evaporated our worries. I think they were completely gone about ten minutes later.

I will share more pictures, but they will do no justice. They could not capture what was happening then. I can’t tell you the exact times of anything I didn’t photograph because I was rapt with experience.

First, I became aware of the light changing. It was getting dimmer, but unlike any way I’ve ever experienced before. Sunlight dims when clouds pass over it, but that is not what was happening. The shadows were completely sharp, as were the colors in the grass, trees, road, buildings, and us. Like a five-year-old who had just finished an ice cream shake, I started jumping around with glee. “Look! Can you see it? The light: it’s totally different!” I pointed at this and that and ran around the group. I crossed the street to get a better look toward the northwest. “Look! That’s the shadow approaching. It looks like a thunderstorm!”

3 min before Totality

I think it was right about then that I spotted Venus. She popped out of the blue sky. The sky didn’t look dark, but it had darkened enough to reveal her. I started yelling loud enough for those around us to hear. They looked up, smiled, and were happy to know about my discovery. The excitement within me was reaching a point greater than I ever remember experiencing before. Holy Shit! This is really happening!

I flipped my eclipse glasses on and looked up, then flipped them off to look around. There was something to behold in every direction, even straight down. I could tell that the shadows were different; they were surreal. I took a picture, but it shows nothing odd. Yet my eyes could tell.

I kept looking at my watch and announcing to all who could hear: “2 minute until totality!”

The…most…profound…moment was soon to arrive. It wasn’t when totality had arrived, but mere seconds before. I could see the shadow of the moon blanketing us. It wasn’t a wall of darkness as I expected. It grew rapidly, but smoothly. I was afraid to look up because I didn’t want to catch too much sunlight and have spots in my eyes. I wanted to see totality clearly. But I looked up just enough to catch the sunlight in my periphery…and that’s when I saw it.

Normally, when looking straight ahead, you can see the sun up above you. You are aware of the mass of light though you’re not looking at it. Even when you’re not thinking about it, your brain knows it’s a ball of light. Well, at that moment, my eyes focused on nothing in particular, but my mind focused on what was happening up above, and I saw it. My brain now registered the light above as a slit. In reality, it was still a crescent, if you looked through the eclipse glasses, but my brain saw it as a slit.

And the quality of light was unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. It was blue. It felt like a single beam of light shining down on me and only me. The best I can compare it to is a SciFi movie where a UFO uses a tractor beam of light to suck a person up into their ship. The sky became blues I had never see up there; the lunar shadow grew rapidly; and then, with a pop, that laser beam of light imploded.

That moment, before I looked up, was the most profound. It is burned into my memory, now. The next moment, which is blurred all over by the emotions I felt, was the most visceral and the most beautiful.

Totality as captured by my friend Barry.

I looked up at the now fully eclipsed sun, saw the sharp dark circle of the moon, and the corona, more beautiful than any of the thousands of eclipse pictures I’ve seen all my life. The emotion welled up so fast within me, I couldn’t contain it. I howled more loudly than ever in my life. I howled, and hooted, and screamed. I could hear no other sound than my own screaming, but I didn’t care. This was not a moment to feel self-conscious. The rest of the world would just have to deal with it. This…one…moment…was the best…moment…of…my…life!!!

I somehow have pictures during totality. I don’t remember taking them. I don’t remember pulling out my phone and unlocking it. If they weren’t there, on my phone, I would think someone else took them. I could see the sunlight behind the shadow now.

1:00 pm. The sunlight, which would return all too soon.
1:00 pm, the way Barry’s phone caught it.

 

1:01 pm, a more accurate view of the darkness that came

Digital cameras adjust too much to light. None of these are really what we saw.

After screaming and jumping and running around like a headless chicken, the tears began flowing from my eyes. Excitement gave way to appreciation: appreciation for clear skies; appreciation for the most amazing sight I’ve ever seen; appreciation for being alive. When I think back on totality, this is the image that is clearest…even though my vision was blurred with tears. It is the one moment I stood still. I had wrapped my arms around Molly’s shoulders and just gazed at that black hole in the sky.

Venus showed brightly to the right, and Mercury showed dimly just to the left. I couldn’t focus enough to find Mars, which was between the sun/moon and Venus.

In less than seven years, we’ll have what I am now calling The Next Great (North) American Eclipse. This next one enters the US from central Mexico. It crosses central Texas (including the very spot I am now sitting) and works its way up through northern New England catching a bit of Canada on the way out. One lucky spot in southern Illinois, which was dead center on this last one, will be dead center on that one too!

If you are living in North America 6-1/2 years from now, go see it.

And if you are hoping for a grand experience doing anything, practice your alignment.  In fact, I cannot emphasize this enough. Consider these next pictures, taken just 30 minutes after totality ended, while the moon still nibbled on the sun.

30 after totality ended facing south.
30 min after totality ended facing southwest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I tuned in that morning, I felt as if my inner being was telling me that the sky would open up in Geneva for us. I wasn’t complete sure if I heard that or was simply being hopeful. By 1:30 pm, I realized it was not fantasy; it was not my imagination. Geneva was in fact where my inner being had led me, and where it would all work out just grand. Later that day, we saw pictures from Beatrice, which showed totality through the clouds, still visible, but not as grand as what we witnessed.

I don’t think my alignment made the sky open up. It certainly didn’t wipe away the clouds from coast to coast or across the beautiful state of Nebraska. My alignment allowed me to hear my inner being guide me to a sweet spot in the middle of eastern Nebraska, right along the center line, where the skies were opening up for totality…with or without me.

That’s how it works. Well being is always out there. A grand experience is awaiting you. It will happen regardless. Your alignment could put you there. It is inviting you nevertheless. This time, I listened. This time, I heard. This time, I trusted. This time, I followed their lead.

And this time, I had the greatest experience of my life…

…until the next one.

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2 thoughts on “A Grand American Experience

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience with us in such detail and enthusiasm! As an Abraham follower myself, I can always relate to all the self talk to attract the experience you are wanting. Well done, and I want to be in your group for the next eclipse!

    Like

  2. Thank you for your detailed sharing your personal eclipse experience! I viewed it with family in northern Illinois, not total but stunning and awesome just the same. Live close to northern VT so am all set for the next one! Be well

    Like

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