Monday, August 21, 2017, I sat outside on a stuffed pillow on our brick walkway, my back to the sun. It was 40 minutes until the peak of the partial eclipse, and strangely cloudy. We have a yearly average of 300 days of sunshine in Santa Fe, but the sky was covered with thick clouds that midday. I did not have viewing glasses, my husband was at the office, so I, and the two cats, were left to our own devices. I got out two white paper plates, poked a hole in one, held it up to where I thought the sun was and pointed it at the other plate. Nothing. So I made the hole a lot bigger. This obviously did not work, and in fact I was later teased for my lack of understanding of a Camera Obscura. Meanwhile, my son and his family were watching the LA version, peaking about an hour before us, so I got to talk to them as we marked the celestial occasion.
When, I positioned my phone in selfie-mode, I got my first glimpse of the moon’s shadow, and the slice of remaining sun. Thrilled and excited, I snapped and snapped, but nothing came out, only clouds with a blurry bright spot. Then the clouds got heavier, it began to get semi-dark, and the birds grew quiet. The cats were hunkered down, watchful. Inside, the house was darkish, and cool, an eerie dusk. It was a quiet reverent moment, bringing the vastness of the universe into focus, overshadowing our small human struggles. Later, I watched lots of footage of the eclipse, people cheering, crying, responding to the magnificent celestial event. I often say a thank-you prayer in such moments, and so I did.
Hopefully my young granddaughters felt something too. Hopefully they will remember how they had the morning off from school and how Mama and Daddy were excited about a funny shadow on their deck, and how the world got strange for a few brief moments. They might travel to Texas in 2024 to see the next one, or wait until 2044, when the darkness will cut a swath across northern California and Colorado before heading east. I may even be alive to witness that one.
I first heard about Hurricane Harvey at the RV Park where I work on Thursdays. People in the know were headed out of Texas hoping for a camping spot in the dry high desert. We had some rain here that day, our summer monsoons still lingering, and I was hoping that the hurricane would bring us some heavier sustained rain as they sometimes do. I had no idea how catastrophic that wish would be for those in the path of the storm.
Friday night, we watched the hurricane on TV. Sunday night we had dinner with some friends from Rice University, in Houston, where we all went to college. They did not seem too worried. They had plans to return home on Tuesday, but the airports were closed, so we saw them again on Thursday. By then, we’d all begun to get news from people we knew: who was flooded and evacuated, who was on high ground.
One Houston friend, whose lovely home is situated above a tributary of Buffalo Bayou, carried furniture and art and rare books up to his second story and was eventually evacuated, a few of his treasures intact. Our sister-in-law, Suzie, as befits her nature, was welcoming neighbors into their home in the Memorial Glen neighborhood while the water continued rising. She was evacuated by boat. Jeffery, Jim’s brother had gone to his office to see how it had faired and was stuck there for a couple of days. He was planning to drive as far as he could, and then walk home. I could imagine Jeffery, big and athletic, pushing his way through the waist deep water, before he was turned back. He sent us pictures of the neighborhood where they live. Just down the street, is the family home where the four brothers grew through their teen years, and the old folks stayed on as long as they could. I visited that house on Hermitage Lane so many times, sat outdoors in the yard when it wasn’t too hot, had cookouts, and big family dinners. A nice, safe, family-friendly neighborhood in the heart of Texas—not too far from the bayou.
Epic, 1000 year storm, more flooding still to come, cleanup, rescues, and reassessment of options. Not done yet.
What fuels our obsession with disaster? What fuels our need to help? The stories from Mattress Mack, to flotillas of private boats, internet organizers, dogs carrying their own food, cats, babies, old ones, rescued in the arms of strangers. Not to mention the 911 responders and public officials working tirelessly to save lives. We witnessed human nature at its best when Mother nature went haywire.
Mercury retrograde happens about four times a year. It is a celestial event that occurs when the planet, Mercury, appears to move backwards in relation to the earth. Many people believe that during Mercury retrograde it’s difficult to complete deals, communication is confused, and electronic equipment goes haywire. At our office, we had a computer virus, some troublesome software upgrades, and the network connections got scrambled. Whether I believe that astrology is to blame for any of this, I do like to think Mercury Retrograde can have a positive effect too. Some say it’s a good time to complete old or neglected projects, and so I try to do a lot of revision of old writing projects during Mercury Retrograde. Perhaps “re” is the key here: revise, refinance, review, relate, re-visit, repair, rebuild, retreat, renew. Rescue.
From the internet:
“Eclipses are generally found to bring about major changes and cleansing in our lives. The Mercury retrograde happening now would cleanse our souls and bring about a mental and emotional make-over … A good time to root out negative thoughts that hinder our development ... helps to identify what is holding back you in life ...”
So we, little humans that we are, have another opportunity to make some changes. To rise above the flood waters, instead of sinking into misery. To rescue ourselves or someone else. May there be light in this darkness, as there always seems to be. Let’s open our hearts to each other, acknowledge our common humanity, and don’t forget to reach out a helping hand.
God Bless all. Happy Labor Day. Happy fall. Summer brought us treasures and challenges; may the coming season bring us hope.