Tag Archives: bucket list

Totality missed my backyard, but the eclipse was kinda magical anyway

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I’m a sucker for things astronomical. That’s why it made perfect sense for me to drive for nine or 10 hours to a friend’s home in the middle of Oregon, and endure a party with a bunch of strangers (lovely people, I’m sure, but I don’t do parties and I was dreading it), and sleep in a tent despite vowing never to do such a thing again the last time I did it, and then spend a day hanging around because I didn’t want to drive back in traffic, and then the next day drive back home in traffic because I wouldn’t be the only one waiting until the day after the eclipse to hit the highway … in order to spend a little over two minutes experiencing totality. That was the plan. At the last minute I had to cancel, thereby maintaining an unbroken record of celestial events that don’t quite live up to expectations.

Take the Perseids. No, first, take the showers of shooting stars that light up the nights over the South African bushveld. I know about these because my grandparents had a farm in the Northern Transvaal, and every year we visited them and all the adults would sit around after dinner, staring at the sky and going ooh while I sulked and wondered what the heck they were going on about. By the time someone figured out I needed glasses, the old folks had sold the farm.

Okay, so now you can take the Perseids … and do what you want with them. I’m not going to talk about them in this post – I meant to, but I just realized I already did so here, and I have nothing to say about this year’s shower because it was rendered invisible by the smoke sent our way courtesy of forest fires in Alberta, Canada. Turns out I’ve also already discussed comets and harvest moons (speaking of which, the next supermoon is on December 3. Wheeeee! I’ve put it in my planner! I will pack a picnic supper and drag the Hubbit out for a romantic drive in the country!) – so … moving on to the most recent celestial event…

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I could find a picture of the moon or meteors or the Milky Way, but I’d rather stay close to the earth for now. Here’s a picture of sunset over the Columbia, from our veranda. Just another amazing thing the sun can do.

… the Great American Eclipse of 2017. It happened, and I was there.

It started here at 9.09AM. I was busy with an urgent email so I didn’t watch the beginning, but my desk faces a large window overlooking our pastures, and beyond them the Columbia. While I was working I watched the world slowly go dim.

I got the urgent out of the way and focused on the important. I found my magic eclipse glasses and grabbed a sleeping bag and scurried out to the backyard. The light was still bright enough that I thought the sun must be only half covered, but when I lay down and looked up I saw there was only a narrow crescent of sun showing.

The air was chilly, and it was very quiet. I switched my view back and forth between the shrinking sliver of sun and the world around me. The light was strange … not gloomy the way it gets when there are fires and the sun glares through smoke like an angry red eye and the horizon squeezes up too close. It was like normal light, but there was too little of it. It felt alien. I thought that might be what sunlight is like on Mars.

When the eclipse peaked at 10.24AM, the sun was about 98% covered.

I had an almost irresistible urge to sing “How great thou art”, but I did resist because I couldn’t remember the words, and there was no way I was about to take my eyes off the heavens to look them up on my cell phone.

No matter how carefully I watched I couldn’t see the movement of the moon across the sun. I couldn’t see the crescent growing, only that it had become bigger, apparently without going through any process of change.

The Hubbit came wandering up from wherever he’d been puttering around doing farmerly things, and complained that the eclipse had been a non-event because insufficiently dark. I could have got up after that, and got on with the this and that of daily life, and occasionally glanced through windows to see the light return.

But I wanted to watch the bright come back. I lay on my sleeping bag spread out on the grass as the crescent embiggened and the air warmed. I heard birds discussing the return of day. In the veggie garden Mr. Roo crowed, and he and his girls began a conversation about the grapes just ripening in their arbor. I became toasty, then uncomfortably hot. The heat roused the flies and they became annoying, and still I watched. The crescent became fat, became Miss Pacman, became an imperfect disc with one rough edge. And then I missed the actual moment of parturition because I got sweat in my eye. Maybe some things aren’t meant to be seen.

Marmeee waving to train - Hover Park

If you need to see a picture of the eclipse, go find your own. I was looking through my photo album for something of a heavenly nature to illustrate this post, and I found this one of the Marmeee waving at a freight train. Because that’s who she was – someone who waved at trains just because she liked them, and never mind whether anyone waved back.

Later on Facebook I saw a cellphone video a friend had posted some miles south of here, just inside the path of totality. You can’t see anything on the video but a glaring dot, but you can hear the voices of other watchers. They murmur and chat for a few minutes, and then the dot dims suddenly. There are whoops and hollers, and someone nearby – it may have been my friend – says, “Holy crap! Wow! It doesn’t show on video – too bad… oh wow…”

That really pissed me off.

Seriously? What did I miss? What happened while I was looking in the other direction? What?

I’m going to have to stay off Facebook for at least two days to avoid being tormented by all the brags and pictures.

There are two more eclipses in 2019 – a total eclipse across South America in July, and an annular eclipse in December that crosses India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Guam (if it’s still there). The Girl Child was all gung ho to meet me in the Andes, but since both happen in winter it’ll have to be the one near the equator.

If I don’t make that one, a more conveniently located total eclipse will scoot up from Mexico to Maine during April 2024. It’s already promising to be bigger and better than today’s.

I hope we’re still here.

Do you have an eclipse experience to share? And is it just me, or is there something in your life that gets you all wound up, so that your friends just look pitying – and if so how well do you do at fully enjoying it?

 

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Daniel diet: Day 1

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Argh. Just argh.

Here follows a deeply uninspired posting. I will try to keep it short.

I have, in a previous post or two, shared my feelings of disgust, despondency and dismay regarding my corporeal form. And here’s the problem with going public with certain subjects: sooner or later, you have to decide – Do I want to strive to become the definitive blogger on the subject (in this case, fatness)? Or would it be more entertaining to strive for, and document, a change?

Plus there’s that dang bucket list I posted. That’s not a wish list or a dream list; everything on there is something I genuinely want to do. And a whole shitload of the goodies in my bucket are literally impossible to do when your bones and heart and liver and lungs are carrying around the equivalent of an entire extra adult (and not some skinny-malinky, either; this body of mine is a real two-for-the-price-of-one deal).

So for the sake of some good blogging material, and my bucket list, and also as an act of kindness toward my thumping heart and sore feet and aching ankles and perpetually tired, de-energized self, I have launched upon a 40-day Daniel diet. In other words, for the next 40 days I am restricting my diet to fruit, vegetables, nuts and whole grains, with only water and rooibos tea to drink. The food is minimally processed and free of any chemical additives. By the end of 40 days I will have figured out what to do next.

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The “Daniel” part comes from the book of Daniel in the Bible, which describes how the prophet and his friends refused the food from the royal table and ate only vegetables and fruit. And here’s the bite … This isn’t really supposed to be a diet; it’s supposed to be a fast – undertaken with prayer and contemplation, with a spiritual motive. I wish I could just think about it as a diet, but I can’t; I am conscious that this ought to be a God thing. Because man (and woman) does not live by bread (or chocolate) alone. Only I’m still kinda skulking in my corner and sulking at God.

I can’t do anything about that right now. If I could get me to a nunnery for 40 days of contemplation, I would. Even an isolated fishing shack on a rain-swept beach would work. I would fast and pray and hold the infinite up to scrutiny, and emit verse and gush prose and eat nothing but apples, and at the end of that I would be … what? Enlightened, maybe? Certainly thinner.

Which brings me back to the point. You have to start somewhere, so I’m starting with 40 days of a really tough diet. I hope that at some stage I will be able, with integrity, to start referring to this as a fast and not a diet, but right now this is all about the stomach and, honestly, my spirit isn’t engaged. Having done this before, I know the first seven days are horrible – the past several times I’ve tried to do this, I’ve not made it past Day 3. I’m expecting headaches, nausea, zero energy and tears. After that it should get better.

And I am going to blog about it. Every. Single. Day.

Hold my hand, okay? I’ll try to write about other things too – I have so many stories to tell! But I have to do this – I have to win this fat battle – or all my stories will be in the past tense. And that would be such a terrible waste of the good life I’ve been given.

There’s a hole in my bucket

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I’ve been pondering mortality quite a lot lately. The remorseless, inescapable advance of that final deadline.

I don’t mind dying so much. Sometimes I’ve even wish I could just get on and be done with it – turn my back on disappointment, loss, failure … get out of the way of those who might make better use of the space I take up. This whole business of being human … I just don’t seem to be very good at it.

But the thought of dying without having fully lived … now that bites. When I was a teenager I wrote a poem … I don’t remember how it went (it’s tucked away in a brown plastic file with all my other juvenile outpourings, I have no idea where) but I clearly remember how I felt when writing it. We were living in a little old house in a suburb outside Johannesburg, and my parents spent their days slaving away at rebuilding that house into their dream home, while also establishing their own business from home. They were busy and stressed, and they bickered constantly. And I looked at their lives, and shuddered at their boring middle-classness, and wrote something that began “I shall never fall to this / The final degradation”.

And … kyk hoe lyk sy nou.

So I’ve been sort of flailing about, in between moments of pondering, which themselves are interspersed with long periods of staring into space, in between tunneling through books like an express train, and somewhere in the course of all this I stumbled upon David Cain‘s blogs about bucket lists.

old wooden well

I have always LOVED making lists. You can spend hours sorting them and organizing them and updating them. Sometimes you even get to cross things off them, although usually, having been written and organized and color-coded, the list is then filed away and forgotten. BUT you get to feel really good about having made it. It feels almost as good as actually doing something.

Anyway, I decided to make a bucket list. For the past week, the only item actually on the bucket list was “Write a bucket list”. This morning I quit pondering and wrote down the rest of it. And frankly I’m perturbed.

It is so very short. And so largely mundane. What happened to the girl who wanted to go everywhere, know something about everything, have adventures, take on the world, and never get tied down? I could make the list longer, of course, just by adding a whole lot of cool stuff. But I while I was writing it, I was asking myself, “When I’m dying, will I care whether or not I achieved this? And do I actually believe I CAN achieve it?”

Well, it appears that I’ve morphed into someone who really and truly would rather get caught up on filing than walk the streets of Samarkand.

I need to know … is this what it means to “grow up”? Or to give up?