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‘I Capture the Eclipse’

When Paul mentioned that he especially wanted to watch the totality of the solar eclipse by driving a few miles out to Traveler’s Rest, I was a little disappointed because I had elected to stay at home, having signed up with an organization that asked people to file reports of how their animals behaved as the shadow of darkness began to fall. And I had hoped he would join me.

The Funny Farm was just off the ‘path of totality,’ classified at 99%, so I would not be seeing complete darkness but rather, a sort of twilight. But truthfully, as Paul’s car disappeared down the driveway, I felt rather gleeful because I had the farm all to myself, which felt both selfish and liberating. Nothing against Paul, as he says quite the same thing when I’m out of town. In complete privacy, he can unabashedly sit around in his underwear, eat Cheetos and drink beer for dinner, freeing his body to trumpet a cacophony of triumphant notes.

Wait a minute…he does that when I’m around as well.

At any rate, I’ve always been enamored by the classic novel, ‘I Capture the Castle’ by Dodie Smith. (I mean, really, how can one not love a book that begins with the sentence, ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink…’) and it revolves around an eccentric family living in a decaying castle in the English countryside during the blissful years between the wars in the 1930s. And in this book is a charming scene with the sisters Cassandra and Rose taking part in their annual Midsummer eve rites of building a votive fire and dancing around it with flowers in the hair on the mound of the tower in which they later lock up their father (told you it’s a great read) and conjuring up who knows what. The sort of young person’s imaginative antics that used to take place when children actually went outside to play.

I love the romantic notion of near pagan abandonment-- not quite as much as another character in the book, Topaz, who would stand nude in the rain wearing only her wellies (too many chiggers), and as it was far too dry to light a fire in the field, I could, however, completely uninhibited and unseen, sit quite alone beneath a towering oak and bang on an ancient timbrel (okay, frayed bongo found at a thrift store). I was attempting a fusion between a Native American fire-swirl trance dance, and a pagan sort of rhythmic clobbering to summon well, I don’t quite know what, but as Gloria Estefan insisted, ‘The Rhythm is Gonna Get Cha,’ and it did.

I checked my phone (who wears a watch anymore) and saw that it was 2:35. Queer shadows began to form beneath the trees, the fence and me, and the diminishing light had even an odd sort of color-wash over it. The temperature began to drop dramatically from the stifling 88 degrees it had been and the horses began to move towards the front gate as they tend to do in the evening when it’s time for their dinner.

2:38…a light breeze lifted the leaves in the trees exposing their silvered undersides and suddenly the birds who had been mostly quiet, erupted into song as the moments ticked over to 2:39, the time of near totality over the farm. Cicadas loudly joined the chorus and caught up in the swell of noise I paced around my little stone circle and although my voice wouldn’t allow me to call out in the lengthy, lusty yell featured in the book, I was fully immersed in a moment of inclusion within all of the heavens and earth and every living thing that surrounded me which was lavishly intoxicating. I drummed my bongo in sync to appeal to the mysterious, thieving gods and demanded that that they return the sun.

Sure, go ahead, laugh. But guess what?

It worked.

Reach PAM STONE at pammstone@gmail.com.

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