“It is a spectacle pure and simple, the most magnificent free show that nature presents to man. . . . [N]ot to view the coming one would be literally to lose the opportunity of a lifetime.”
— “On the Solar Eclipse of 1925,” The New York Times

Tyler Norgren's new book about the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse

Tyler Nordgren’s new book about the August 21, 2017 

To witness a total solar eclipse total solar eclipse is a rare phenomenon.  The last time one touched the mainland United States was in 1979.  But on August 21, 2017 some of us in the United States will have a chance to see one without traveling too far.  A continent-spanning eclipse like the one this year hasn’t occurred in the United States since 1918.

Total solar eclipses happen when our Moon is exactly the right distance from the Earth to cover the sun completely.  For a couple of minutes, the Earth is fully in the shadow of the Moon.

Eclipses actually happen fairly frequently, but sometimes the Moon’s shadow is cast in the endless reaches of space.  Imperfect alignments happen, too, and those are partial eclipses.  To experience a total solar eclipse in one particular point on Earth more than once is very rare indeed.  Astronomer and physics professor Tyler Nordgren, in his new book, Sun, Moon, Earth, says, “Though eclipses happen roughly twice each year, each one follows a different path across our planet.  The patterns repeat in shape every eighteen years, but each time, the path is positioned one-third of the way around the planet and a little farther north or south than before. . . . eventually any spot on Earth can expect, on average, to see totality every 375 years.”

The path of totality for the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse cuts a swath across the entire United States.  You can find maps at http://www.GreatAmericanEclipse.com.  It will start at 10:26 PDT on the Oregon coast and 93 minutes later will move away from the Atlantic coast.

Path of totality on August 21, 2017

Path of totality on August 21, 2017

 

Path of totality in Oregon (from Great American Eclipse website)

Path of totality in Oregon (from Great American Eclipse website)

I have made camping reservations on the Oregon coast for a few days overlapping the day of the eclipse.  That morning, I will have to drive about 2 hours south to be in the path of totality.  Barring clouds (always a possibility on the coast), I should experience one of Nature’s most awesome shows.

The descriptions in Nordgren’s book have primed me to expect a wondrous and multi sensory few minutes:  “. . . the temperature drops, birds grow quiet, shadows sharpen, and colors become muted and fade.  Then, all at once, the Sun turns black and the stars come out.  Overhead a ghostly aura steams outwards around the Sun’s dark disk.”

And, “The corona, a ring of immense pearly tendrils, envelopes the darkness and stretches off into the sky in all directions.  It is unimaginably beautiful and only visible during these few precious minutes of totality.  All around it are the brighter stars and planets, invisible until now; it is a day that has become night at noon, with the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars overhead all at once.”

You don’t want to miss this year’s eclipse because you will have a long wait for another one.  The next total solar eclipses on American soil will happen in 2024, 2044, 2045, and 2052.

I wonder how I will be affected by seeing a day with two dawns and midnight at noon?

“. . .[T]he great lesson of the eclipse to the masses who saw it is that one little unusual phenomenon in the skies makes us realize how closely akin we all are in this common planetary boat out on an ethereal sea that has no visible shores.”
— The New York Times, January 25, 1925

 

 

 

World of Wearable Art exhibit at Seattle's MoPop

World of Wearable Art exhibit at Seattle’s MoPop

I recently wrote about the Yves St Laurent exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, but there is another fashion exhibit currently showing in the city at the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly known as the Experience Music Project).  A friend and I went to see the World of Wearable Art show which features winning looks from New Zealand’s international design competition.  The fashions all were constructed using unconventional materials — fiberglass, wood veneer, plastic, old tires, etc.  These artists’ imaginations are off the charts!  I loved the hybrid offerings, a marriage of art and fashion.  Here are a few samples:

Warrior outfit made of tires

Wood veneer

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The venue, a building designed by Frank Gehry, is as stunning as the exhibits in the show:

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The Museum of Pop Culture is on the grounds of the Seattle Center.  Just look for the Space Needle, which stands as sentry over the grounds.

Space Needle

Space Needle

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What We Need Is Here

November 26, 2016

Skagit Valley snow geese

Skagit Valley snow geese

The Wild Geese
by Wendell Berry

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

Flock of snow geese in the Skagit Valley

Flock of snow geese in the Skagit Valley

 

Watercolor painting of Skagit Valley snow geese

Watercolor painting of Skagit Valley snow geese

Blueberry bushes, Skagit Valley

Blueberry bushes, Skagit Valley

“. . . in solitude, or in that deserted state when we are surrounded by human beings and yet they sympathise not with us, we love the flowers, the grass and the waters and the sky.  In the motion of the very leaves of spring in the blue air there is then found a secret correspondence with our heart.”
— Shelley, On Love

This quote is the epigraph of Mary Oliver’s new book of essays, Upstream.  A timely message for me these days when I am feeling so out of sync with my countrymen and women.  Nature can help to heal a bruised heart.

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Yves Saint Laurent exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum

Yves Saint Laurent exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum

The colorful fashions on display at the Seattle Art Museum’s Yves Saint Laurent exhibit were an appreciated antidote to the November’s grayness (weather and spirit).  What an original and creative designer he was.  Many of his pieces are classics in the fashion world, but this retrospective look attests to his work as art as well.  The exhibit runs through January 8, 2017.

Evening gown from Paris collection, 1983

Evening gown from Paris collection, 1983

Pink ruffle cape over black sheath dress, 1977

Pink ruffle cape over black sheath dress, 1977

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Design sketches and fabric swatches

Design sketches and fabric swatches

This is a wedding gown! From 1970.

This is a wedding gown! From 1970.

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Fringed raffia coat, 1967

Fringed raffia coat, 1967

Art dress in homage to Tom Wassermann, 1966

Art dress in homage to Tom Wassermann, 1966

I loved the bodice which looked like a textured painting of poppies. Brilliant!

I loved the bodice which looked like a textured painting of poppies. Brilliant!

 

Green Lake, Seattle

Green Lake, Seattle

“The moon and the sun are travelers of a hundred generations.  The years, coming and going, are wanderers too.  Spending a lifetime adrift on boat decks, greeting old age while holding a horse by the mouth — for such a person, each day is a journey, and the journey itself becomes home.”
— Basho

We are all journeying through life, whether covering vast distances on the road or staying close to home.  I love hearing about where friends, family, and colleagues are going on their vacations, and sometimes I have trip envy.  I’ve never traveled for such extended periods that the road became my home.  All my life, I’ve had deadlines to return home and resume my job.

Perhaps these time limits are why I really love to travel when I get the chance.  While I appreciate my travels, I do like spending time at home, too.  I can rationalize the advantages of staying home and making a rich life of my ordinary days.  That’s why this poem by Billy Collins brings a smile of recognition to my face:

Consolation

How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon’s
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyes camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.

 

I love that we have complex and sometimes competing rationales for traveling or staying put.  Here is another poem that asks whether we should have stayed at home:

Questions of Travel
by Elizabeth Bishop

There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
– For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren’t waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
– Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
– A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.

– Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr’dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages
– Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds’ cages.
– And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians’ speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:

‘Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there… No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?

 

I’m glad that there is room in my life for occasional big trips and also comfortable days at home.  I can find beauty and interesting things almost anywhere.

So here are a few photos from a local jaunt to Tacoma, just 40 minutes from Seattle:

Chihuly glass chandelier in Union Station, Tacoma

Chihuly glass chandelier in Union Station, Tacoma

Chihuly Bridge of Glass, Tacoma

Chihuly Bridge of Glass, Tacoma

Staircase by Tacoma Glass Museum

Staircase by Tacoma Glass Museum

 

Willapa National Wildlife Refuge

Willapa National Wildlife Refuge

I find that art and nature make an almost irresistible combination, and the bayside gallery of sculptures in the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge is particularly wonderful.  The outdoor art trail takes you past several sculptures in a natural setting.  Take a look:

Entrance to boardwalk

Entrance to boardwalk

Giant salmon bones

Giant salmon bones

Shorebird swirl

Shorebird swirl

Boardwalk

Boardwalk

Spinners along boardwalk

Spinners along boardwalk

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Tiny frog sculpture on boardwalk

Tiny frog sculpture on boardwalk

Feathers

Feathers

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Start of hillside climb trail

Start of hillside climb trail

Red-legged frog leap arcs

Red-legged frog leap arcs