My partner had been planning for the eclipse for an entire year. He mapped the path of totality in Google Earth, plotted every bald mountain campground and cliff face along the path and began making a plan. We started scouting sites as of July Fourth, and I began documenting adventure time in my Interdependence Day post. In all we scouted 10 sites, including:
We planned for an influx of people, so we plotted a four day adventure to give us plenty of time and space to work with. Familiar with D&D gameplay we couldn’t help but see our party assembly in this light, evaluating our skills, experience levels, individual and group needs.
Throughout our group we had a printmaking communications & social impact strategist, arborist/mushroom farmer, cyber security for the DOD, a web developer, robotics AI engineer for biotech, a software engineer, music therapist, law student specializing in social justice, and a game developer. We spanned relationship dynamics of life & business partners, aunt & uncle with our nephew, housemate, and lifelong friends. A small portion of our chosen family.
With this many strategists in a group decision-making becomes a whiteboard session. My training in social impact came in handy for a group of our size, we employed basic techniques of developing shared agreements, and framing our expectations and responsibilities so there was no confusion to cause passive aggressiveness or excess emotional distress once on top of the mountain, also to keep communication open among our party. We had three strategists focused on risk assessment. Our humanitarians, legal and music maintained a focus on our creature comforts. We didn’t know exactly where we were going to land, but we knew our rendezvous points while we made our final decision. Ultimately, we ended up at Huckleberry Knob, figuring it would have other people there, but would have been remote enough to still have space for a group.
What we discovered was a mowed field where once was tall grass and butterflies, and that’s when we realized the forest service knew more than we did. The Astronomical Society was shuttling in 1400 people the day of for viewing, the summit already had 12 tents and we were only just beginning to discover what we were in for. The next day I took a nap at mid-day to 25 tents on the summit, when I awoke, there were about 80, and by the end of the night there were over 100 on site with more people hiking in until about 3am. It was like watching amoebas multiply.
As our pop-up community formed we had representation from states far and wide, and even had some international travelers who chose Huckleberry for their viewing spot. Our encampment ended up in discussion with the local forest rangers to hear how they needed us to be mindful and help them preserve the Leave No Trace ethic. As a result we took control of building the community fire, rallying barter economy around the fire, and creating the space for others to gather with the least impact to the knob. No one knew this many peeople would show up to the bald and by the time the evening before totality commenced we had about 1500 humans with only one visible bond, we were there to see a total eclipse of the sun. Drone footage of our campsite
I was fascinated watching the emerging social dynamics. The frat-boys who couldn’t keep their volume down. The Woo Woo tribe of modern hippiedom. The photographers and naturists there to capture a cosmic experience. The engineers, science-minds, and stargazers. The mountain was filled with an abundant creative energy manifested by brilliant tech-savvy minds, and a microcosm of diverse modern society gathered amidst Nazi rallies and supremacists in other spaces to show what can happen when people know love, beauty, and have a taste for adventure. My solar prints were a focal point of discussion with photographers as I exposed them to the process of creating a print with sunlight.
We surprisingly had good luck finding other party members who arrived a day late, and even old loves from Massachusetts who ventured into our campsite by happenstance and gave us an update on the surrounding area. Our lives were in a constant state of surprise and going with the flow. I was so grateful for my creative training and our ability to pivot to create the experience needed for the moment instead of always sticking to what we thought our plan would be. When a plan fails, make a new plan.
Day of, our viewing felt risky, and a pivot was called for. Members of our party were leaving that day and decided to venture off due to cloud cover on the summit, so my partner and I went with. I packed up my printmaking materials and we headed to find a clear patch of sky. As we drove the Skyway we were stunned to find miles and miles of cars all lined along the road. We found pocket universes of community at every overlook, nature preserve, and sunny patch of grass. This singular event in time and space united people with one shared experience, we banded together in the path of totality. I wondered how many people I passed that I may have known, or could have befriended if only our orbits had crossed.
As the sun approached the last 10 minutes I found some plants in our new viewing location and took a different kind of totality photo, an eclipse energy solar print. Something about making a solar print with eclipse energy felt like my way of recording this moment. It seemed an apt metaphor for the occasion making a print from absorbing light and nature obstructing that light to create an image. I was truly present in my visual experience, not focused on a camera or optics, I simply let paper absorb the energy and cast a natural shadow. As I watched the moon block the sun I was filled with a moment of peace. I thought of my vintage “corona” typewriter that creates #mysoltypecasts @lenspeace, and the responsibility inherent in naming the world. I thought about how the shadow moving across the earth in this moment is the fastest thing humans can see with the naked eye. I thought about how this experience was a metaphorical moment of cosmic integrity, shown through a perfect alignment for being grounded (earth) between our emotional body (moon) to radiate a crown of light (sun)… and how fleeting those moments of integrity can be, but how they can change our perspective for a lifetime. Drone footage of the shadow crossing the landscape.
Thousands of humans came together to show what humanity is capable of in this age. When we can rally around a single loving cause we can come together, party, commune, and ultimately leave no trace. If this was the bar we set for our every day lives, we would be able sustain our ability to impact society, and create the world we desire. We can’t become so jaded to believe this is impossible. We’ve just shown what we’re capable of when we simply show up as our best selves, live with integrity, and let our hearts lead.