Friday, August 25, 2017

Eclipse 2017: In Celebration of a Family Farm, Friends, and Pure Awe

The "diamond ring" emerging from totality. Photo by Allen Denver.

In today's hyper-speed news cycles, the 2017 total eclipse that sliced across the USA on August 21 is old news. But in the days since, I've been replaying that amazing 1 minute and 48 seconds in my mind, lingering over the too-brief spectacle.

It was the most thrilling, mind-bending, magnificent natural event I've ever experienced.

The bonus? It capped a wonderful weekend on a family farm in the Willamette Valley filled with happy, interesting people, great food, and kick-back fun.  Life doesn't get much better.

Over 40 people and 7 dogs converged on the farm situated conveniently in the path of totality. We ranged in age from 6 to almost 80. Many of us pitched tents in the orchard, some slept in RVs and campers, while others lodged in the barn.

As people arrived over several days from Seattle, Portland, and even Santa Cruz, California, it was fun to meet old friends and make new ones. As Tonia said, it was like "a family reunion with the people you like even though some of us had never met."

Some went hiking and exploring in this beautiful, pastoral patch of the valley near Silverton, and some stayed close to relax, cook, or read. Several kids picked fat, sun-ripened blackberries for pie, which hostess extraordinaire Mary Lou helped them make.

The taste of late summer in the Pacific Northwest.

Although there was a possibility of clouds, I awoke before sunrise on Monday morning and peeked out of my tent to see sweet clear skies. As fast as possible, I threw on a fleece sweater and jeans, grabbed my cameras, and ran out in the morning quiet to shoot the sunrise, my favorite time of day.

Eclipse day sunrise - minus 4 hours.

After another hearty breakfast of farm fresh bacon, eggs, fruit, pancakes, and more, the anticipation edged up several notches.  We spread out in a couple open fields and patches with good views to the east, set up chairs and cameras, got out our eclipse glasses, and watched as the moon slowly crept across the sun in tiny but increasingly large increments.

Sheet spread out to catch the post-eclipse wave shadows.
About half an hour in, the light started to visibly dim, the temperature dropped, and a slight breeze picked up. I reached for my jacket and put it on.

As the moon encroached more over the sun, the light was unlike anything I've seen, as if someone turned down the dimmer switch in the sky.

Shortly before totality the roosters started crowing, and I heard what sounded like an owl hooting from the patch of woods behind the field. A short hush fell while the last sliver of light faded from view, as if everyone held an intake of breath for an extra second.

When I could no longer see any light at all through the eclipse glasses, I tore them off.

That first stunning glimpse of a big black circle in the black sky, surrounded by the white glow of the sun's corona shimmering outward in delicate filaments of light, will forever be seared in my mind. 

(For you art history types, it reminded me a bit of the dramatic crown of thorns in Grunewald's famous Eisenheim alterpiece, only more exquisitely gossamer.)

All the photos I've seen don't quite capture it. But they're close.

Totality. Photo by Allen Denver.
People whooped, I heard what sounded like a bomb or fireworks go off in the distance, and I found myself bouncing around, saying to no one in particular, "THIS IS SO AWESOME!!"

I'd heard people say to look around, so I did. In this instant predawn/dusk, there was a tinge of red on the horizon in every direction. 

Then I grabbed my camera and snapped some shots, put the camera down, put on my regular sunglasses and gazed up at that wondrous sight above again. I remember thinking, if this was a few thousand years ago and I didn't know what caused this, it would be a fearsome sight indeed.

Far too soon totality was over. I wanted more.

Some of us drove away quickly to try and beat traffic (no such luck) and some people stayed another night at the farm. I waited until after dinner and headed north at 6 pm. After 8 long hours on the road without a break, I pulled up to my home in Seattle at 2 a.m.

Of course I want to see another total eclipse now. Next time I wouldn't try to take any photos and would instead focus more on the sun and surrounding sky during totality, without sunglasses. I'd heard conflicting things about the safety of viewing without any protective lenses during totality (consensus: it's safe). As a result, I missed seeing the stars in the background around the sun.

So how about you? Did you make it to the totality zone and see this spectacular phenomenon? If so, how did you react or feel? Would love to hear about your experience in a comment below.

And perhaps Chile in 2019?
Photo by Allen Denver.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.

Thanks to Allen Denver for letting me use some of his great eclipse photos. And extra special thanks to our generous and gracious hosts Mary Lou and Ben.


Anonymous said...

Jill, lovely post - only correction closer to 40 than 30. What was amazing was the people who attended, each and everyone of you were the best guests, wonderful campers, we did a last minute sweep before we buttoned up the all electric cowshed (aka milking parlor) no a trace of the event was there - we must all hove been campfire girls/boy scouts of the leave no trace variety. I will say it again, its not the food or the location that makes a party its the guests and you guys were the very best. Mary Lou

jill said...

Post corrected! And YOU and BEN are the very best too! I left with warm and happy memories in large part because of the fascinating and friendly people I shared a few days or hours with. Safe travels and enjoy Amsterdam!

JoJo said...

It was lame here in coastal Massachusetts. Just 60% totality. It got dim outside. But we'll have totality in New England in 2024 so whoo hoo!!!!

Anne said...

Being unable to go away I settled with the 92% in Seattle and had a wonderful experience in my own yard....I thought it would be a lot like sunset but it was very different, from the odd and very beautiful shadows cast on the surface of my back yard, to the kind of creepy darkness that came over us and after the too hot weather we have been having it was nice to have the very cool temperature even if only for an hour or so. Maybe eclipses were the cause of many a strange happening in the times of primative humans and I am sure the animals forgot about it right after it happened.

jill said...

Hey JoJo, lucky New England in 7 years. Not to be missed!

Anne - glad you saw the cool wave shadows.

A. Denver said...

FYI: Several of my eclipse photos are available for sale at

Jill, thank you for including a few of my pics. Really great write-up capturing our experience on the Farm.

Allen Denver

jill said...

Thanks Allen! Appreciate the comment and will check out your website. Cheers.