Pre-trip musings

July 20th, 2008 § 2 comments

Some say the sight of a total solar eclipse will make you cry. Others cite the experience as the closest thing to a spiritual encounter they can imagine (or have experienced), calling the sight of the glowing black orb in the sky the ‘Eye of God’–a lofty claim coming from astronomer-types, who are, most often, people with a proclivity towards a rational state of mind. Nonetheless, the sight of a TSE (total solar eclipse) is reportedly a soul-touching event… a connection between the universe and those who are lucky enough to witness it, as the sun, moon, and Earth align in such a way that for a short bit of time, in an area that covers only 1% of the Earth’s surface, a narrow track of the moon’s shadow sweeps across the planet, turning day into night, at a specific moment, in a precise place. Enter the Eclipse Chaser.

Eclipse travel, often to remote corners of the globe, is made that much more exciting and memorable from the feat of getting to the location in the first place. I know from my own trip planning that there are many more elements than the spectacle in the sky that contribute to the experience and the promise of adventure. For no other trip have I had to get so prepared and yet be so hopelessly in the dark about how things will unfold–it’s not easy to plan ahead for travel and accommodation within Mongolia. There is logistical research–I never imagined myself to be looking up latitude and longitude coordinates for a camp site; there is an extensive equipment checklist: solar viewing filters and glasses, telescopic binoculars and camera lenses, GPS apparatus, and camping gear. This, not to mention learning a thing or two about astronomy and solar eclipses, and careful attention to climatic conditions and weather predictions, all without knowing for sure that we’ll actually be in the right place to see it once we’re in Mongolia, and if the weather will cooperate. Eclipse chasers often sign off email with the same closing statement: Clear skies!

Not that one can do anything about the weather–and for eclipse chasers, who plan years in advance their vacations around these events that occur every year and a half, a cloudy sky can be the devastating factor of a trip taken for naught. Perhaps the gamble of good viewing conditions adds to the suspense and anticipation of an eclipse trip, but for me it seems an ironic twist of fate that an act of nature’s forces, timed so closely to the second and pinned so meticulously along coordinates on the Earth’s surface, can be ruined by nature’s own temperamental tendencies. It’s poetic, in a way, that the event can be so predictable with the same potential to be elusive–nature’s way of keeping us humans in our place? It’s surely a reminder of our place in the grand scheme of things.

And so (I think to myself now in the comfort of my home), even if after traveling thousands of miles and enduring the hardships and misadventures that are sure to come with it, I feel fortunate for this break in the routine of things, and this unusual encounter with nature, even IF (I think now) things don’t work out. It’s got me thinking about nature’s forces–life’s forces–that are out of my control… bigger things than schedules, and work, and the trivialities of life; it’s got me thinking about the forces that govern the planet upon which I live, and the mechanics of the universe I can’t understand and which no government or corporation can ever own or control. Man cannot tame it, and this, in itself, is a comforting thought when in my daily life I see the destruction of the natural world we leave in our path–when all is said and done, we are not the ultimate masters. And knowing that something so powerful, mysterious, and uncontrollable exists leaves me with a feeling of awe, fear, and comfort all wrapped into one undefinable emotion. Does it sound like a spiritual experience? Perhaps so, and I haven’t even witnessed the eclipse… yet.

Clear skies!

§ 2 Responses to Pre-trip musings"

  • agent k says:

    well said, as always C. while you’re covering the eclipse there, i’ll be in the dark (theater, that is) here, covering the new x-files movie– armchair for sure 😉

    trust no one!

  • Denise says:

    when I read your writings and thoughts I am amazed. Received a note from my sister Diana and she said she is already enjoying the trip.She is also a lover of solar phenomenon.