Missing the Eclipse: There is Always Another?

I’ve wanted to see a total eclipse of the sun for as long as I can remember. I was a child who was fascinated by astronomy. By sixth grade I’d read every book that Jefferson West Elementary School had on the subject and I’d moved on to the Hays public library and was making pretty good progress there.

But it takes money, often a lot of money, to get the the remote locations in which that thin strip of totality seems to always lie. So, imagine my excitement when I read last February that a swatch of total eclipse was going to reach from Oregon to my home state of North Carolina.

Then, imagine my reaction when I realized that I would not be here for the big event. Days earlier I had booked non-refundable airline tickets for four to Kenya for the safari trip of a lifetime. No, the eclipse would not be visible in Kenya. No, the tickets could not be changed. Maybe I should have checked, but seriously, who looks at schedule of eclipses before they plan a trip?

I cut my losses, focused on the excitement of my upcoming journey, and tried to ignore the ever-increasing hype about the eclipse as mid-August approached.

I had a great time in Kenya. And, the good old reliable sun provided me with a lot of beautiful photos, so I didn’t feel completely cheated out of celestial beauty.

Meanwhile, some of those closest to me headed over to nearby Charleston SC for nature’s big show. Our home near Asheville wasn’t in the path of totality. But, we have kin in Charleston, and it seemed like  a terrific place to view an eclipse: all that wide expanse of ocean, all those great restaurants and things to do, and a relative’s condo that was available for free.

Only the total eclipse didn’t happen quite as expected. Yes, the moon passed in front of the sun for a couple of minutes, but it never got dark, like in the NASA photo shown at the top of this post. It was more dusky, like part way through a sunset. According to some theories, light from outside the totality band was reflected off of the ocean, preventing complete darkness. Whatever the cause, an iPhone captured totality like this. It was a cool experience, according to those who were there, but not quite the extreme event they were lead to expect.

I’m in Charleston today, thinking about the eclipse that I missed. That was about 28 days ago and we are back to the new moon. This time, the moon won’t pass directly in front of the sun, at least from where I am sitting. But it will from somewhere, even if that somewhere is out in space.

Sooner or later, I hope to find a way to put myself directly in that shadow. Will the experience live up to all of my expectations? Maybe. Maybe not.

Meanwhile, here is how the sun, and that invisible new moon, are looking today in the Charleston area, just one full cycle of the moon later.

Not too shabby. If this is the best solar event I get to see for awhile, I’m not going to feel so bad about it.

 

Does Marvin Gaye know what’s going on?

I’ve enjoyed blogging about each of the forty-five songs I refer to in my five books, and today I am writing the last of these posts. For no particular reason, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” has that distinction. It occurs near the end of z2, when much of the group comes together for New Year’s Eve, and the words to the song provide impetus for solving part of the puzzle of the mysterious Maya artifact.

cmkqowgweaeubypIn fact, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is a song about hope. Written in 1966 by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, it became a hit in 1967 when it was recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. It basically says I’ll be there to help you , because no force is big enough to stop me. It’s the last part of the that message that gets my attention; the idea that nothing can be so big and so bad that it can’t be overcome by someone who wants to make things better. I’m not feeling terribly hopeful these days; I guess I really need to hear this sort of thing. I must not be the only one, as I and over a hundred thousand other people have enjoyed this simple and classy early video posted a few years ago.

Looking up more information on Marvin Gaye (who is usually associated with the song) I found a wonderful fan page for him and learned that in the tumultuous year of 1969 he became frustrated with the type of music he was writing, wanting to turn towards topics that were more socially relevant.

The timing makes sense. In 1968, twelve elections ago, two fairly unpopular presidential candidates ran against each other while their policies sharply contrasted with a controversial war and a good deal of racial and political unrest. I would guess that Marvin Gaye didn’t want to only sing happy, hopeful songs for lovers. He wanted to weigh in on the social issues of the day.

According to the fan page

… in 1971 What’s Going On was released; the first song Marvin Gaye produced himself. The album explored topics such as poverty, discrimination, politics, drug abuse and the environment. Barry Gordy was reluctant to release the album because he doubted its potential commercial success. Despite the reservations, What’s Going On was an instant hit and groundbreaking work in the soul music genre.

It’s easy to see why. In a unique sweet and sour style, the title song contrasts a cocktail party sound with harsh words about the times. The song opens with … (From Metrolyrics)

Mother, mother there’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother there’s far too many of you dying

Let’s face it, these are apt lyrics for today, and they got me thinking about how much 1969 and 2017 have in common. They had an unpopular war, we have unpopular wars complicated by global terrorism. Racial tensions then had grown out of the fight to eliminate legal segregation, today many of us of all colors are reeling from a plethora of incidents with the police that make us question how far we have really come towards racial equality. Two high profile assassinations, police brutality during the 1968 democratic convention and the sight of 250,000 war protesters marching in Washington left the people of 1969 angry and confused. Today, we face the inauguration of a president whose election was aided by a longstanding enemy nation and fueled by groups chanting about building walls and talk of registering members of a minority religion. Times change, but sometimes they seem to circle back around, and revisit the feel of a bygone era.

I sought out a video of “What’s Going On” and found this one which has been enjoyed by almost NINE MILLION people recently. I guess I’m not the only one who thinks that Marvin Gaye understood something about the problems of 2017.

Father, father we don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer for only love can conquer hate

Of course, he went on to write and perform many more songs before his tragic death at age forty-five, and he left a wide and varied legacy in R&B, soul, funk, jazz and pop genres. As I enjoyed researching and learning more about him, I realized that I like all of his music, although the hopeful song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and the wisely prescient “What’s Going on” are my two favorites.

You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today

As the background characters say in the video, “right on.”

How the light gets in

photoWhen you work as a consultant, as I do, you end up in a lot different kinds of unpleasant work spaces. There is the big room that requires industrial strength head phones to concentrate, and there is the office awkwardly shared with your supervisor who has no where else to put you. But the worst for me, personally, is the dark cube tucked into a windowless corner where the sun never shines. Not knowing if it is raining or sunny, or even day or night, wears at me. I’d have been awful on a submarine.

My latest assignment had put me in just such a place, until I had the bright idea to bring a globe into my office. It’s decorative and kind of pertains to my job and it almost fit between my desk and the wall. I just needed another inch or two.  The office manager took pity on me and my minor attempts at interior decorating, and okayed scooting my cube out a bit so that the globe could stay. Lo and behold. Once the scoot was made, a small piece of metal kept the two cube walls from joining perfectly.  I now have a crack in my walls.

raising5I maintain several different blogs. I have a blog where I write about peace and I like to feature photography and art about the subject. It’s fairly easy to find. I have another blog where I write about joy and photos of happiness are even more ubiquitous. But how do you picture hope? That’s a tough one.  On this here blog, which is about hope among other things, I’ve used the sun breaking through clouds and an image of a small plant shoot coming up in barren soil. Hope is a harder thing to picture. At least for me, it used to be.

No longer. If the door across the hall is open, sunlight now seeps in through the crack in my wall and what a difference it makes. My whole attitude at work has improved, and left me pondering the many wonders of letting a bit of joy ooze in through an imperfection. More than once I’ve found myself humming lyrics that go “there is a crack, a crack in everything …. that’s how the light gets in” and wondering where in the world I got those words from.

A minute on Google just solved the mystery. Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem” is either the world’s most depressing song about hope, or it’s the most hopeful song that could be written about a depressing world. I’m going to go with the latter.

I now have my own photograph of what hope means to me and it’s a simple picture of a gap between two office cube partitions. Better yet, I found this fine video of “Anthem”. It gives Cohen’s poetic lyrics superimposed on images that just might make you feel like it’s not that bad after all. Give it a try.

One more plus — I just found a great post about this song on another blog called That’s How the Light Gets In. It’s worth checking out, and this day just keeps getting better.

Coincidence? I think not ….

Psychedelic 5I’ve been caught up recently in the concept that writing novels is what I am meant to do. This is all started when my qigong instructor posted a blog about when he realized that teaching qigong was his mission in life, and I responded by telling him I had found mine too.

Isn’t that cool? But have I? And why am I so sure?

One of the problems with writing speculative fiction is that you read a lot of it, and it is full of tales to refute any theory you might have. I could tell you that every time I have run into a stumbling block with my writing, something unexpected has gently appeared to help me through it. Coincidence? Well, I have also read the “The Sparrow“, a wonderful book about space travel and inter-species misunderstandings and the foolishness of turning to small signs around you to decide that you are on the right path.

I’ve also read plenty of novels that compel me ask exactly who it is that I think picks these paths anyway, and to make me question whether he, she or it is both benign and competent for the task. There are a lot of theories out there, any many don’t bode well for those of us who are charging ahead feeling sure of where we are going.

None-the-less, I get up happily each morning certain that I am leading the life I am supposed to lead.  My health remains good, my outlook is great, I continue to be surrounded by love and I look forward to doing what I do. Coincidence? I think not.

(Please send a like to the fine folks at Psychedelic Adventure on Facebook. The great image above came from their site.)

May 2014 bring peace, joy and hope to all!

Please enjoy this collage of my favorite images of hope from the past year.

best of hopeThanks and credit to (from upper left, clockwise) 1. Facebook page for the Dalai Lama 2. www.fearbuster.com 3. blog.richmond.edu/heroes 4. Facebook page for the Dalai Lama 5. Inspire21 6. Alternate Economy 7. iHope

For a look at my favorite images of peace from 2013, please visit my x0 blog here.

For a look at my favorite images of joy from 2013, please visit my y1 blog here.

It’s September. There’s hope.

daffodilIn the Midwest where I grew up, we looked forward to spring. One of my most vivid movie memories as a child (second perhaps only to my sheer terror at the wicked witch of the west and her flying monkeys) was a scene from Dr. Zhivago. After endless footage of snow and ice, the daffodils burst onto the screen and even a little girl could feel the hope in their bright yellow blossoms.  Ahhhh …. sunshine. Warmth.

And then I moved to the south. Now when the days begin to grow longer and the daffodils start to bloom, a sad resignation sets in.  Soon it will be summer and the windows will have to be kept closed and everything in my yard will wither and I’ll have to get up at 6 a.m. to go for a walk. Sigh ……

First I think that July is the worst, because you know this is going to go on yet for a really long time.  Then I think that August is even worse because it’s been incredibly hot for ever and it’s still going to be incredibly hot for a very long time.

autumnThen September comes. They days are shorter but it is still every bit as muggy as it was three months ago.  However, September brings something new.  Sooner or later, sometime during the month, there is going to be at least one cool evening, one time to sit out on the porch, one night to sleep with the window open. You don’t know when it will come, and it probably won’t be until late in the month, but it is coming.

We’re still a long way away from November, when we in Houston will have what passes for autumn if we’re lucky. Trees will turn and breezes will blow and for a few months we will get to eat out on the deck, just like the people in Moscow do in the summer.

It’s nice that where ever you live, there is hope.

The look of hope ….

I planned on z2 being a novel about time and about change, but when I began writing it I did not realize the extent to which it would become, for me at least, a novel about hope. With my first two books, x0 and y1, I’ve enjoyed finding ways on my blogs to visualize the theme of each novel. However, while artwork and photography about peace and joy abound, I’ve discovered that the very concept of hope is harder to convey visually.

What does hope look like?

Is it this?

Hope 2Or this?

hope 5

Does it help to add words? I think it might.

Please visit inspire21

Please click to visit inspire21

Hope is a such a simple and universal concept, and yet so hard to capture in a single image.

Click to visit cvxegypt.com

Click to visit cvxegypt.com

I’ll keep trying however. There’s always hope. 🙂

 

For images of joy shown on my y1 blog click here. For images of peace shown on my x0 blog click here.