I had spent the days—weeks, really—leading up to the solar eclipse vaguely planning where to view it. Travel south a few hours to be in the path of the totality? Head into the City to be part of the Planetarium’s festival? Stay local and attend the local living history museum’s eclipse-viewing picnic?
None appealed. I sensed a peak experience was being offered by the Universe, one that, as a Solitary, I didn’t really want to share with other people. I wanted an environment uniquely my own, to be part of a shared global experience in a setting in which I could create a deeply personal, intimate connection with All That Is. To be in the world, but not of the world.
And so, the morning of the total eclipse found me at the South cairn of the prairie restoration behind my Unitarian Universalist church. People gathered for an eclipse-watching party on the back lawn, busily setting up telescopes and viewing boxes, and distributing NASA-approved eyewear. A pair of women followed the Circle Path into basin of the prairie, disappearing from view, and I knew that I, too, was hidden, immersed in prairie grasses. It was time for me to prepare.
At the southeast curve of the Circle Path lies a short wooden bridge, a wetlands walkway over a water run-off channel next to the church parking lot. The trail south of the bridge is steeply sloped for about ten feet before evening out; east of the bridge the trail is not so precipitously angled. Purple Coneflowers, Brown-Eyed Susans, and Bee Balm jostled each other as if they were at the desserts table of a Sunday potluck, bending over the walkway, swaying above the Rye grasses filling in the spaces under them.
Vegetation crowded into the Circle Path from the top of the southern slope through the swale, fingers of flowers and fronds beckoning. The crest of the slope felt like the entrance to a wildly green cave spattered in purples and yellows, where eight-foot tall plants dwarfed me and the bridge transitioned me into, as Emerson says, “a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.”
I settled myself on the bridge, set up my simple altar of Direction Stones, Tarot cards and pocket Goddess, and leaned into a state of active listening. A fuzzy bee scrambled over the head of one of the coneflowers. At first I thought it was just we two sharing these moments, then my perception lengthened, expanded, and I realized he was but one of a drift of bees, each bent upon their task with the single-minded avidness of professional treasure hunters.
I thought about bridges, of crossing unseen land, of knowing where you’ve come from and focusing on where you’re going, and missing the journey. I thought about living into the tension of balance, so often misperceived as a static state when in truth there is a barely controlled dynamism at work, a teetering, trembling energy of seeking and maintaining a shifting center. I thought about thresholds we barely perceive as we move into the center of rooms, of boxes, that we allow to contain us, to define us.
Through the gauzy clouds I saw the sun was almost covered by the moon. The coneflowers bent in a low breeze; the bees hunkered down for a ride. The cottonwoods chattered secrets to each other. The plants overhanging the bridge stroked my skin, their leaves and petals soft as a new mother's touch against her child's cheek. The excited exclamations of the watchers in the back lawn sifted through the prairie flowers and I realized I had found my moment of balance. I was alongside yet unseen. I was in the world, but not of it.
The clouds threaded apart; in the moment of the total eclipse the sun’s light was stronger, brighter than it had been just moments before. I smiled in recognition of that illogic, closed my eyes, tilted my face to the sky and began chanting a soft thanksgiving sung by Lila from the Sisters of the Moon cd:
Thank you for the blessings and guidance every day
Thank you for the wisdom and showing me the way
Clarity and vision, I’m always on my path.
The Festival of Mabon, the Autumn Equinox, occurs this month. The second of the three Harvest Festivals, Mabon, too, offers an opportunity to embrace the internal dynamism of maintaining personal balance. In our eagerness for Samhain we may think of Mabon as something of a final mile marker to be sprinted past, our spirits and energies focused on the finish line of the Witches New Year (or at the very least, pumpkin spiced lattes). Yet Mabon offers the gloriously fertile tension that can exist between “not quite finished” and “not yet happening”.
In these last days of high summer with their sudden bursts of increased energies and activities—the school year start-ups and team practices and an ever-increasing tide of distracted busyness—I encourage you to embrace those moments when you find yourself “in between”. Pause on your interior threshold; soften your focus on your destination and sharpen your perception of your journey. Give yourself time to be immersed in the picture of your life, “a picture which was never seen before, and which will never be seen again.”
SO MAY IT BE.