I forget what we were talking about. I forget why we were talking about it. I forget why we were standing by the side of a road.
It’s odd what you decide to forget.
I remember I was 18. I remember the boy and the girl both had long stringy hair parted in the middle. You could tell them apart because the boy had one of those ugly pubic hair beards.
It’s odd what you decide to remember.
“Does she know how to get there?” the boy asked. “Will she know she’s there when she’s there?”
“Does she even know that the name of this flower is chicory?” the girl asked.
And that’s how a common roadside flower became inextricably linked in my mind with that intense, restless, wordless longing the Portuguese term saudade.
There’s a lot of chicory by the side of the road in late August.
Growing up the way I did, it’s not surprising I have major abandonment issues.
So, the eclipse.
We only got to 70% totality here, but I was very curious to see what effect that might have on wildlife.
I couldn’t score eclipse glasses. Samir had given me some workarounds – they don’t have eclipse glasses in Algeria, but they do have eclipses: “If you have old computer diskettes – they have the film inside them, yes? The filter. It is the proper strength. Also film for cameras that you develop if you put it together back to back.”
Alas! The disadvantages of living in an economy based on built-in obsolescence: I had neither diskettes nor camera film. So, I made a pinhole projector out of an old cereal box.
The National Park Service was hosting some kind of big event on the grounds of the Vanderbilt mansion, so I took off to points north – the eerie (even without an eclipse) little town of Staatsburg, the vast greensward that swoops from the stately Beaux Arts Mills Mansion down to the glittery blue river. At the last minute, Linda and Ed decided they wanted to come, too.
What I noticed was that the temperature dropped. It was very hot, and then suddenly, it was comfortable.
And the shadows lengthened, but it seemed that my eyes were playing tricks on me because the day did not get noticeably darker. I think that’s one of those brain compensation thingies.
Crickets and cicadas started chirping.
I followed the progression of the eclipse in my pinhole viewer. I was thinking bunnies might start to pop out on the lawn since they’re crepuscular creatures. But they didn’t.
“I have glasses,” called a nice woman who, with her husband, had set up lawn chairs about 50 feet away from where I was sitting. She let me look through them. OhmyGAWD! Spectacular!
At the moment when the eclipse was as full as it was gonna get in Hyde Park, NY, the dozen or so few people who were scattered about on that vast lawn all rose and came together spontaneously to form a big circle. We held hands and then, one by one, we thanked the Universe for allowing us to witness this awesome event. Some of us called the Universe “God.” Many of us made wishes – for world peace; for harmony between all men, between all living creatures; for kindness and goodness to prevail.
It was a very sweet moment.
We didn’t sacrifice any virgins, though, so likely our wishes fell on deaf ears.