AUGUST 2017, ISSUE #195

This month, we were offered the greatest of diversions; a total eclipse. On August 21, a hefty segment of the American population put aside the sour news of the day to contemplate the heavens. We joined them with a road trip to the path of totality.




At The Plant: a swallowtail on pink zinnias, and a blue-tailed skink on a plank.


Frogs in our rain barrel at home, singing their after-dark mating song.




The path of totality was a 70-mile wide swath across the nation from which people on the ground could see the total eclipse. The last time a solar eclipse was visible from the U.S. was on Feb. 26, 1979. The next time will be April 8, 2024.

We passed the giant peach outside of Gaffney, South Carolina on our way south. We’d nearly forgotten how fun road trips  can be. This one reminded us of a mid-winter trip twenty-some years ago in which we drove south until we reached 70 degrees Fahrenheit. We found the perfect temperature outside of Tuscon, Arizona, parked at Saguaro National Park, got out the lawn chairs, popped a couple of beers, and stared into the cactus.




We made it to Westminster, South Carolina nearly 300 miles later, a tiny town (population 2500, give or take) 11 miles from Georgia.  Most everything was closed except for the Japanese sushi place. The occasional van circled the streets looking for an eatery, likely people who had also come to see the Eclipse.




We backed Oliver, our olive green Subaru Outback (thank you, Jason!) up to door number 4 at the Relax Inn and unloaded our cooler.  The only food we purchased on this trip was a bag of kaiser rolls and some chips. It isn’t a vacation without chips!




Guns and kudzu. Ayup. We were definitely in the South.




Our sighting of the Gaffney water tower sparked an interest. Westminster’s tower sports a red apple in honor of their annual apple festival.




The water tower in Anderson, South Carolina is painted with their nickname. The plaque reads: “Half mile West on Seneca River, the Portman Shoals Power Plant built by William C. Whitner began in 1897 the transmission of high-voltage electricity over the longest lines then in use for that purpose in the United States. The success of this plant now owned by Duke Power Company caused Anderson to be called ‘The Electric City.'”




We felt like country mice in Anderson. With a population of 26,686, it’s a big town compared to Westminster and Pittsboro (population 4,266).  Bob walks down the street towards the Anderson County Courthouse. It’s clock and bell tower date back to 1856. Camille stands next to a bronze sculpture of the celebrated Mr. Whitner, who was nice enough to hold her purse.




Our friend and former neighbor, David co-owns Carolina Bauernhaus and it seemed the perfect place to settle in for a celestial event. Meanwhile, David was playing music an hour away at the Chattooga Belle Farm Solar Eclipse Fest.




We settled ourselves on the concrete apron outside the Baruernhaus and began making new friends out of the strange collection of people who had come seeking totality.



We blended right in with our sweat-glistened skin and funny glasses, so dark the only thing bright enough to shine through was the sun itself.




We had a situation. Clouds threatened to spoil our experience. Lucky for us, Nina was there to blast them apart. While others milled about trading stories, she dutifully sat focused on the task at hand.




When the moment arrived, Nina had done her good job and the sky was clear. We were instantly submerged in dusk and the horizon turned a dusty peach color. The temperature dropped, the birds stopped singing, streetlights lit up, the cicadas began to buzz, and a bat flew over our heads.

The visceral response took us by surprise. It was a lot like seeing a ghost. Our hair stood up on the napes of our necks, and a feeling of dread tightened our solar plexus. In an instant, the experience went from socially intellectual to physical. Our reptilian brain had taken over and was refusing to listen to reason, the same way it does when we see a snake and recoil despite ourselves. We looked around and realized everyone else was experiencing the same psychic gut-punch.

Prehistoric people surely must have had a similar reaction to the disappearance of the sun. As far as we knew, it might never return. There was a feeling of helpless acceptance. We were deer in the headlamps, frozen to that cement griddle outside the Bauernhaus. We looked around for a few minutes, pondering these things. A minute or so later, the sun moved out of hiding like a brazen torch, and all returned to normal. I’d say it was a sobering experience, but not sure that would be accurate.




Bob booked us a luxurious room in the Bleckley Inn, the perfect place to reflect on what we had experienced that afternoon. Camille washed her hair and pulled out her journal.




The Bleckley Inn puts out cookies and milk around 7 pm, so Camille wandered down the hall and returned with a giant eclipse cookie. It was really a flat, frosted brownie. As if this hadn’t already been the best day ever, that cookie sealed the deal. And yes, she shared it with Bob.




Like boomerangs, we turned around and drove north, past the Gaffney water tower, to our quiet little sunlit home.




Tami and Lyle arrive in Tami’s convertible VW bug for drinks on the back porch with Ted and Helen.


Always a good time with this group!



Meanwhile out in Colorado, young Nolan explores the mysteries of light and shadow.



“I don’t believe there’s any problem in this country, no matter how tough it is, that Americans, when they roll up their sleeves, can’t completely ignore.” – George Carlin

“We live our life in the mind, which is a place of separation, instead of in the heart, the place of unity and communion.” – Stephen Levine

“We’re living in a time of great awakening: the realization that everything is connected – that ecological healing and social justice are one notion, indivisible.” – Kenny Ausubel, Co-Founder and CEO of Bioneers



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[Troutsfarm] * [August, 2017]