Ruth’s polariods in the RV
8/21/2017 Lughnasa Kate’s Moon
A saga of small proportions, but a saga nonetheless. After a late pickup of the RV due to the previous renter breaking a large outside storage container door, we were cramped in getting stuff into it. Ruth and Gabe slept in it in our driveway on Friday night and we finished packing Saturday morning.
We left around 7:30 am. Due to dire traffic predictions I picked a route that would minimize traffic though it would take a while longer to get there. I don’t mind using time on my own volition, but backed up bumper to bumper on an Interstate? Not so much.
Being a little bleary from the previous day I ended up missing the route I had chosen and finding the exit for an alternate instead. Instead of taking the turn for Empire and Granby, right next to Rocky Mountain National Park, we drove to my first idea, a routed going north out of Dillon on Co. 9. Some of the driving was on roads with narrow to no shoulders and I was still getting used to the hippotamus like wallowing of this big beast. One slight run off the road scared the bejesus out of me.
In an attempt to get back to the Granby route I took off east on Co 14. This was fun because it took us through the vast high plain known as North Park. There are three parks, South Park, Middle Park and North Park. South Park is in Park County, close to our home. We turned north again at Walden, a quaint little town that calls itself the moose viewing capital of the state.
Ruth, above the cab
Somehow though, after we passed into Wyoming, I missed Wy 130 and in the process took us off through the Medicine Bow National Forest. This was also beautiful, but much further south than I intended. This meandering took us about 100 miles out of the way. All good from a not all who wander are lost perspective, but it had a negative effect later on.
By the time we made it to Jackson, after a trip through another National Forest with mountains blued out as the sun sat behind them, a river flowing north beside the road, it was dark. Both Kate and BJ recommended against taking the Teton Pass at night, so I listened. We found a temporary home for the RV in the Jackson KMart parking lot.
For about three hours. At 12:30 pm a knock on the door and very bright lights outside announced the Jackson police department. Contrary to what we had heard KMart does not welcome overnight stays and “Jackson has an ordinance against illegal camping.” Oh. Well. If you put it that way.
So, again bleary eyed, this time after 12 hours or so of driving I put on pants and shoes, started the hippo and we moved away from KMart. Kate suggested we try the Motel 6, a place Jon stays when he comes to ski. $63 a night. They said rooms were $248 a night, a special rate just for the eclipse. Ha. However, the desk clerk kindly said we could stay in their parking lot for free. We did.
About 7 o’clock Sunday morning we fired up the hippo and drove to, wait for it, McDonalds for coffee, potato type food and an egg mcmuffin. We wanted to get out of Jackson and onto the Teton Pass. Which we did.
It’s not a difficult drive in the light, but it would have been treacherous in the hippo at night. Again, beautiful. Natural beauty surrounds us here in the West, especially following the Rocky cordillera north as we did. Sort of.
Once down the Teton Pass we passed into Idaho at Victor, then turned north toward Driggs. BJ, Kate’s sister, lives a half hour out of Driggs, up the side of the bowl that the mountains create here, a small version of a Park. Her home is rustic with wood flooring, weathered porches and an outbuilding that includes a sauna and a greenhouse. It’s quiet here, the opposite of Broadway and 78th in NYC, where she lives in the Beacon Hotel.
Tomorrow is the eclipse. We’ll see it from a meadow near here. More after that.
Losing the Sun
8/22/2017 Eclipse Moon
Kate, BJ, and Jon. On BJs deck.
A black sun. Coronal flares shooting out, white against a blue-black sky. No birds flying, a sudden cool silence. Two minutes and twelve seconds passing fast. At 11:35 am, against a clear, just moments before hot blue. Gasps and exclamations came over these lower hills of the Big Horn Range, the ragged Tetons across the Tetonia valley, mute.
A moment of the occult revealed by darkness. The sun always moves across our spinning planet with those vast, hot flames reaching for the edges of the solar system. Unseen. Even the sun itself, except at a quick glance, or in the periphery of vision, stands hidden in its own brilliance. Not yesterday. Not for two minutes and twelve seconds.
A sight reminiscent of a secret society. Only initiates can see the truth. And it is so. It may be a secret society of millions or billions, but it is exclusive, often, as for me, happening, if at all, only once in a lifetime.
Six Olson/Johnsons: Jon, Ruth, Gabe, Anne, BJ, Kate and one Welsh Teuton sat on BJ’s east facing deck, eyes covered in glasses dark enough to make walking with them on impossible. At first we baked, heat from a late Idaho summer crackling down from the sun, naked and fierce as it can be at midday.
A small pinch of black intruded on the faded yellow globe we could see through the eclipse glasses. Baily’s beads, sunlight bouncing through valleys created by lunar mountains, shimmered for just a second then disappeared. The small pinch became a bigger one as our usually nocturnal moon, and a new moon, usually invisible, at that, showed up, its shadow cone moving at hundreds of miles an hour, racing across the U.S. from Portland to Charleston, passing us here just across the Big Horns from the vast potato fields of southern Idaho.
That image, black sun, coronal flares across the deeply bruised heaven is now a permanent resident in my memory. Brief though it was, its violation of the natural order so consistent over my life time, much like an earthquake disturbs our sense of the stability of the earth on which we walk, was so intense that it will stay available to me.
How often in a life do we get to shock ourselves in such a way? The sun shines in through the window of the RV as I write this, back to its old dangerously luminous self, too shiny for my eyes. “There are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.”
Our common sense philosophy allows us to move through our days without recourse to constant surveillance. The earth is solid. The air breathable. Night follows day. Our heart beats. During the day the sun shines unless obscured by clouds. When our experience deviates from these home truths, our inner world shakes. Can’t get enough oxygen? Heart pauses? Earth moves. Night comes near noon on a cloudless day. Even if we know the why, the empirical fact of such an insult to the received wisdom of our lives alters our confidence in what we believe. Alters it in a deep and profound way.
Alpine glow during totality, looking toward the Tetons
Perhaps such events are the key to humility. What we assume is true may be mistaken, mistaken in some fundamental way. Once one pillar of our inner temple is shaken, we may need to examine them all.
August 23, 2017 Lughnasa Eclipse Moon
The day of the eclipse has come and gone. Jon, Ruth, and Gabe left that day for Colorado. The eclipse was on the first day of Gabe’s fourth grade year and Ruth, though already in school for a week or so, missed classes on Monday, too. They had to get back. It took Jon 11 and a half hours to get home.
BJ, Kate, Anne at Kates birthday party apres eclipse
Later that day Kate’s two sisters, Annie and BJ, Kate and I, drove into Driggs for a post-eclipse return to this earth. Traffic in that small Idaho farm town was heavy, a traffic jam slowed us down getting to the art fair which was our destination. There were mumblings about how the expected 100,000 people had ended up being only 10,000 and artists seemed disappointed in their sales.
Since we never left BJ’s deck to see the eclipse we escaped any traffic getting into place for a viewing and the traffic coming up from Conifer was never heavy, even on I-80, so that small Drigg’s experience was it for us. Fine with me.
Annie and BJ put together a birthday party for Kate with a happy birthday banner, glow in the dark bracelets, flowers and color changing small candles. We had salmon, potato salad, baked beans and fruit for dessert.
The next morning we had breakfast up at the big house. (what Kate and I from the RV perspective called BJ’s place) Kate ended up feeling crummy and left early to spend the morning resting. I wrote a bit, read, talked with Annie and BJ.
In the afternoon Annie, BJ and I drove 15 minutes over to Tetonia, a smaller town than Driggs, with the same name as the county. As you drive east away from the Big Horn foothills where BJ lives, the Tetons dominate the horizon, especially four jagged peaks that have a distinct alpine feel. The tallest and most severe of the peaks is Grand. Between the Big Horn foothills on the west and the Tetons in the east is a flat plain dotted with fields of wheat, alfalfa and pastures with Angus and horses. There are barns with hay lofts, Harvestor silos, grain elevators and farm equipment dealers on the main road. If you bracketed out the mountains, it could be a location in Iowa or southern Minnesota.
We visited a small shop in Tetonia, a show case for Steve Horn, who makes furniture, carves wood into whimsical fire place mantels with dancing bears or curious elk. The quality of his work is high and the prices reasonable. There were also other local crafts such as white turquoise jewelry and woven pine needle baskets, various rugs of a rustic cabin sort and a few scattered antiques.
Ankole-Watusi Horn, an African breed of cow
There were also four horns, two smaller and two larger, that made me wonder what animal could possibly have worn them. So I asked. The owner came down from her office area above the store. “You know, I’ve been meaning to look them up. Give me a minute.” I did. “Come on up here, I’ll show you.” These were the horns of a central African cattle breed called the Ankole-Watusi. The largest horns of any cattle breed. The pictures she pulled up showed large cattle, perhaps oxen size, with enormous horns.
BJ wanted to eat lunch at the Badger Creek Cafe, a Tetonia restaurant a couple of blocks beyond Steven Horn’s place. “Put together by two chefs from NYC. Really good food.” Also closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. We all liked the name of a small woodworkers shop nearby, Mortise and Tenon.
Because BJ’s realtor and friend, Bobbie, had invited us over for dinner, we went back into Driggs to pick up some dessert. The Austrian pastry shop was closed as was Cicerolls, so we went to Broulin’s, a local supermarket. While there, I told BJ I liked it. For those of you familiar with Minnesota supermarkets, it would have been between a Lund’s and a Bylery’s, nicer than Colorado’s King Sooper.
from Bobbie and Barney’s deck
Turns out the locals, Bobbie for instance, view it as an intrusion by Jackson Hole prices and tastes into the area over the Teton Pass in Idaho. Probably so.
Later we met Bobbie and Barney at their home which overlooks the large agricultural plain with the craggy Tetons on display on its eastern edge. A very peaceful place.