Before Totality


August 17th, 2017 (travel date)

It is very early in the morning on this August the 17th. A storm has settled in with lightning filling the sky far more often than the thunder that follows. In 24 hours I am sure I will be awake again, anticipating the alarm reminding me it is time to pack the car. On the 18th, I will be leaving for a vacation and a bit of education regarding how real settings influenced some of the greatest works by an author of American literature. That author is known as Mark Twain, and the destination is Hannibal, Missouri.

But this is not the only intention for this journey. No, this trip has but one destination whose arrival time must strictly be adhered to. The appointment for such a destination is near the centerline of a total solar eclipse. This will be the first of two appointments with the moon’s shadow that will cross the United States; the second will happen in 2024. I’ve been given a telescope, purchased a white light filter, an adapter for my smartphone, and an extra battery pack. Though it isn’t an ideal set up, especially since I do not have a motorized mount for the telescope, I am none the less hopeful I will capture a souvenir of the experience.

It is said that being within the moon’s shadow during a total solar eclipse is unlike any other experience nature has to offer. The light from a sun that appears yellow or orange will reveal its true nature, just as other stars in the night sky, as pure, bright, white light, only it will be surrounding a dark moon. Planets and stars will be visible even as the horizon all around glows as orange as a sunset; a treat will be seeing Mercury as well. There are a great many other observations to be made, the diamond ring effect, Baily’s Beads, solar prominences, shadows of a partial eclipse cast between the leaves of trees upon the ground, waves of dimmed light moving across light colored surfaces. Some will go to celebrate, some with their telescopes, perhaps some for the spirituality of the experience. As for myself, it’s difficult to say that there is any one reason. Perhaps it will be good for my writing, perhaps even better for the soul — that summation of experiences one has in life that can influence, if not define, one’s present perception.

There are other sights along the way that I want to see, pertaining to inspiration: music, architecture, and archaeology. But in the end I suppose I’m looking to recharge the batteries and to refill the creativity chest with a few new memories for later inspiration.

I wish I could tell you that as I leave for this journey I am in the best of mindsets. But like the storm outside the window on this early morning, 2017 has had an extremely disruptive effect, not just on society as a whole, but on a great many of those of us who suffer from mental illness. Sometimes the negative effects that many are able to dismiss as something they can do nothing about are tragically multiplied in the minds of those who already suffer from various mental health conditions. Sometimes the only way to improve perception is to abandon the lowlands of routine and seek experiences that lift the mind to higher ground.

Image from August 21st, 2017

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"Before Totality"
 Author Alan S. Garrett in Missouri, USA
2017 Total Solar Eclipse Series
August 21st, 2017, 9:36:03 AM