in the path of totality :: wonder and awe

Before we get too far on this side of the recent eclipse, I'd like to share our experience.  We are lucky to live very close to the path of totality for this amazing event, and so of course we traveled just a little ways to see it.

We drove 2 hours from home with big plans of hiking up to the top of a bald along the Appalachian Trail to witness the big event.  Getting there that morning was easy enough (to the trail crossing at the road anyway), however, about 300+ cars were already parked all up and down both forest service roads accessing the trail for a good 1/2 mile+ in either direction.  Cars were nearly tilted on their sides they were so precariously parked.  We naively thought that not that many people would care to hike a few miles to see the eclipse.  And we certainly hadn't expected so many to have gotten there the day (or two) before to set up camp.  Silly us.  So, we continued on and ended up parked along the side of Nantahala Lake with a fun and interesting mix of folks.  

We passed some roadside hours with snacks and walks and small talk with others gathered there.  We watched as the moon's shadow crossed the sun.  We took note of the really quite endearing little crescent moons dotting our shirts, our faces, the car.  It got dusky, then an eerie sort of yellow-dark, like nighttime lit with bright street lamps. We heard the crickets come out and everything else hush as we approached totality and then........... WOW.   

I had been feeling overwhelmed by the 'bigness' of it all for the better part of the prior week, and watched videos showing me what to expect, but still......... WOW.  I choked up.  It is in no way a stretch to say that I was profoundly moved.  I spent a handful of seconds taking pictures and spent the rest lying on a quilt on the roadside snuggled up with my girl and holding my love's hand (he was actually in the road) with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat.  It made me feel small, so small, and connected to others, to all humans I suppose, in good, good ways.  It was mystical and magical and I felt like I was finally able to really see the sun as the star that it is.  And during those minutes, all the other news, that great big pile of awful and injustice and sorrow and struggle that we as humans are creating and witnessing and carrying in places near and far....... all of it seemed so small too.  I know it isn't.  But for those moments some kind of ancient something else was in charge and I'd like to think it put us a bit in our places. 

We left shortly after and the drive that took us 2 hours in the morning took 6 post-eclipse.  After crawling maybe 25 miles in 2+ hours, we ditched the main road and took back roads and the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way home.  I'm not one for prolonged car time, but that 2 minutes and a handful of seconds rocked my world in such a big way that I'd spend all day in a car to see it again in a heartbeat.  I'm already thinking ahead to 2024, and wondering where we could land ourselves for a few days...



she's growing up, this little one.  stretching out long and tall.  figuring out bit by bit who she is.  she tells me her favorite things are reading, knitting, art, and listening to audiobooks.  she's also a big fan of riding horses (well, a particular horse) and playing the ukulele.  she is a frequent builder of fairy houses and fairy teepees and other things of the fairy realm.  she is funny and smart.  she has a great big heart that she wears on her sleeve just like her mama.  she's got a pretty awesome vocabulary for a seven year old (though plenty of those adorable misspeaks sneak through often enough for me to feel that she isn't so so big).  she is moved to tears of happiness easily.  she is an observer.  often when she is pretending with friends she is either riding a stick horse and neighing loud and shrill for all to hear, or she is a lost orphan with a sad British accent (must be all that somber British children's lit).  she loves her people, she loves her cat.

I love her big as big and wide as the universe.


go north

We went north.  A stop in NJ for a couple days to stay with family and meet new cousins (well, they are 7 months old, this set of twin girls, but they are certainly new to us).  We walked across the Delaware river via a little bridge that spans the river right about where Washington crossed it long ago.  Looked at old houses, watched turtles sunning themselves.  Claire and her cousin running around on the grass.  We had a bit of time with papa's siblings and with nana and pipop and then we headed further north, up to my grandfather's land in the Adirondacks.  The last time I was up there was when I was 6 months pregnant with Claire and we were a month out from closing on our house.  On the cusp of real grown-up-hood, as it were.  It was way past time to get back up there.  He died last May, my grandfather.  My grandpa Joe.  Sometimes I still don't think he's really gone.  At nearly 97, I'd kinda started thinking he was going to be around always.  But no.  My grandmother, grandma Helen, died when I was 12.  I wish I'd had the opportunity to get to know her as an adult (myself as an adult, that is), because that changes things a bit, doesn't it?  Enriches the relationship, adds new depth, new layers.

But instead she lives on in my mind through my childhood memories of her, and that is sweet too.

All this to say, we got back up there.  Introduced Claire to the place.  To the lake, to the paper birches, to the predominantly pine forest that smells amazing and is so thickly adorned with ever so many species of mosses and lichens and mushrooms, to the amazingly clear star-gazing milky way sky.

We camped on the property, just a short walk through the woods from the cabin, where two of my uncles and my dad happened to be at the time.  So it was camping, but with the use of a bathroom and kitchen.  We had a little rhythm.  Warm drinks by our fire in the morning, then a walk to the cabin to make breakfast before exploring for the day.  Lunch on the go and then back to make dinner and have another fire (or two).  The first day we stayed close- Mike fished a bit while she and I swam at the lake, then the three of us drove over to the cemetery to visit with my grandparents and took a scenic loop back.  The next day a drive up to Blue Mountain Lake to the wonderful Adirondack Experience Museum there.  An outing to the nearby Natural Stone Bridges and Caves in Pottersville, and then the day spent driving through the Keene Valley area along the Ausable River and up towards the High Peaks region, cutting east in time to catch the ferry in Essex to cross Lake Champlain so we could drive back through western Vermont.

There was campsite mancala, and birch bark collecting.  She quickly found a new stick horse and named her Rosa.  We found the big white pine I remember from my childhood- one that it took all three of us stretching our arms wide around in order to circle it completely.  There was gem mining at  Natural Stone Bridges and Caves, and much rock collecting (by all of us) in various riverbeds.  One night we put her in complete control of the fire- building it, lighting it, tending it.  And aside from burning her finger just a touch upon lighting it, it went really well.  She's a capable fire-tender, this one.

wise old white pine.  took all three of us to circle our arms wide around it's base

mossy log path across a low, wet area on my grandparents' property

walking along the power lines, at the top of the property

I used to swim out to the floating dock here and do the very same thing when I was her age

Loon Lake

this house, and the motel adjacent to it, are right on the lake and belonged to my grandparents years ago.  the cabin and property are directly across the street

The Adirondack Museum has an amazing child-size log cabin with an outhouse, woodshed, washing area, clothesline, etc.  It was pretty much the place of her dreams, and she could have happily stayed there all day.  All week.  We learned we were only about 2-2.5 hours away from the town and homestead where Almanzo Wilder grew up.  Maybe next time...

home sweet home for 4 nights

The above pictured 1948 GMC Woody used to belong to my dad.  He sold it to his brother, my uncle, many years ago.  It is well taken care of and lives in the barn in upstate New York.  Sometimes I think that if he hadn't sold it, it's what I'd be driving around now.  Probably not, but it sure is pretty.

After the Adirondacks, we headed back to NJ for another slightly longer stay with family.  More visiting, more meals with family, more time with sweet cousins.  A trip to our favorite farm.  Make that farms.  Howell Living History Farm is a special place.  Mike and his siblings spent quite a lot of time there as kids and we started bringing Claire there when she was about 1 and a half or so.  It's where we get her bonnets (even though we recently found out we can order the same mass-produced ones on Amazon).  It's where Mike's parents get their honey and maple syrup.  We've been to fiddle contests there and gone on hay rides and steam-engine pulled tractor rides.  We've helped to harvest corn and watched the draft horses plow the fields.  I take lots of photos whenever we're there.  Often the same photos.  Red barns.  Slanted windows.  Buckets.  Piles of grain.  Sheep.

After our visit to Howell Farm, we rested for a bit.  Read lazily around the house and such.  But later on it was back out to another favorite jersey farm.  Chickadee Creek Farm, which is run by a dear friend who is essentially, basically, our sister in law.  She has an amazing thing going.  A large market CSA with 400+ shareholders, a big berry, flower, tomato, etc. U-pick operation just for members (where we went to pick berries, berries, berries!), and a smattering of other projects.  She was recognized last year as the National Outstanding Young Farmer of the year.  As in for the whole country.  She's kind of awesome.  We picked lots and lots of her berries.

And then the next day we drove home.  Eating some berries along the way.