The Light Comes Back

I was lucky enough to request yesterday off months ago so that with Lumberjack, my best friend, and her partner, I could drive down to the middle of nowhere in eastern Oregon right near the center of totality zone on our momentous eclipse day here in the States.

Because we're the four of us busy people, we maybe didn't do quite enough to prepare (i.e., find a place to stay the night in totality zone before they were all booked). I'll tell you the four things that I think were vital to our success this adventure:

  1. We bought certified eclipse glasses
  2. I read Annie Dillard's essay on her experience of the eclipse in 1979 (available to read here at the Atlantic only for a short while longer)
  3. We made a playlist
  4. We set out very early



Totality was spectacular. First the light turned greyer. The shadows began to fall wrong across the landscape and our bodies. I watched my husband smile nervously in a new shade of blue, the shadow of his face falling short and sharp across his shoulders — beautiful and otherworldly. I felt nervous myself, a base anticipation pervasive. We toasted then to our resilience in darkness. It descended heavily and suddenly but light could be found at all the edges, sunrise on every horizon. In totality the dance between sun and moon was spectacular and clarifying. We laughed and exclaimed. People ran in circles. Crickets chirped. Suddenly my heart ached knowing this tango between two epic celestial bodies would soon end. And then with a brilliant glitter emblazoned at once across both of them, triumphant, the sun came back. We toasted to the return of light.


As we packed everything up, peed in the trees, and got back in the car, the sun was clawing again for purchase in the sky. I cried, then. I've been thinking all year about hope and how to hold onto it when you're plunged into a world of darkness. It turns out the light always comes back.

Then we drove eight hours home and we all sang loudly to Total Eclipse of the Heart, which is an excellent song. (I won't wax on the cheap and obvious metaphor for any longer, I promise.)

Grief: Day 269 -- Fear Laps At Me

Today was my first day back after another precious vacation week. I went home to Austin, the first time since February, and it was the center of that bitter buzzing in my ear.

I think everyone in my family is melted into their elemental pieces and trying to put themselves back together – but of course in the meantime some of us are held hostage as everyone else’s container lest they leak away, dripping through loose floorboards.

I visited my father’s grave, the tombstone now in place and reading “Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est”, and I felt that all I could taste was bitterness, all I could see over my father’s grave was bitter dirt, all I could remember from those weeks in February was a great mountain of bitterness given that life had done to us what it had. In reality there was bittersweet, there was grief as rooted in a foundation of love (as an inevitable part of it); but I didn’t remember that, only bitterness.

Lumberjack and I flew back to Seattle on Thursday. Saturday we were meant to go out and explore a park or something. But early in the morning I turned to see the window assaulted with rain and it struck a flame of fear into me. I slept for several more hours. I can sleep and sleep and sleep this year. I get so little good sleep when I’m working but even when I’m not I sleep for 11 hours at a time, which I’ve never consistently been able to do before.

Instead of going out we sat on the couch and read and watched TV all day. I think the cats were pleased. We skyped with Lumberjack’s parents and they told us about a car accident his father was in – he’s fine but the car was totaled.

When we finally left for dinner my fear gained remarkable substance in the ballooning quiet of this city the non-city, in the sirens that landed across the street, in the terrible lighting on the bus, in the scrubbed silent streets in the neighborhood of the restaurant. It’s still so weird to me that I can feel so uncomfortable, so creeped out, outside in a city, on a bus, etc. How different it is from the city I know. What a warm blanket familiarity makes.

Yesterday morning I drove Lumberjack to the airport again and I am realizing that fear laps at me. When Lumberjack’s parents told us of that harmless car accident I see it as a lucky near-miss, further evidence the universe waits around the corner to hurl further damage and destruction and despair at us. I worry that every time I let Lumberjack leave my side I am tempting fate to make it the last time I get to see him (even writing that I have to knock on wood). And so the current life, in which nothing I live is really real because I’m away from my partner, which brings a whole new level both of exhaustion and responsibility, which took so much from me and expects such an unprecedented amount, which precludes joy and fullness – in this life, I also must spend precious energy quashing interminable sparks of neon fear. And the cycle keeps on turning at an increasing rate, a steady acceleration. A year ago today I posted an instagram a photo of the Christmas lights on a tree downtown (I spend so many moments going back through my instagram pictures, gazing greedily on that Before Time), which filled me with so much joy. Here I ride past a small lake on my bike and realize that at that speed the water reminds me of water I know, frames-per-minute slowed, a suspended animation. It makes something flicker alive in me that I recognize when I look at that picture of the lights a year ago. Everything here is almost entirely too insipid. Perhaps I will adapt.