Chasing the Sun's Shadow

We view the solar eclipse in Franklin, Kentucky. Next week, the story behind the glasses.

All this talk about the solar eclipse calls to my inner stargazer. How could I possibly stay behind this weekend when millions of Americans are chasing the sun’s shadow from coast-to-coast?
It all began two weeks ago after my husband and I returned from my annual pilgrimage to Kentucky. A friend and fellow writer called to discuss some business. Afterward, knowing my southern ties, she said, “We’ve planned our vacation to view the solar eclipse in North Carolina.”
“I’ve not heard about it,” I confessed.
“Oh? Well, it’s been 99 years since the last total eclipse across the United States,” she said. “We’re excited to see it.”
We said good-bye, and I dismissed this remarkable event and any hope that Mel and I could leave our harvest another August weekend.
           Then yesterday while cooking peach, ginger, lavender jelly, I received an email. “I’ll be in Nebraska watching the solar eclipse with the kids and grandkids Saturday through Tuesday.”
           Now, that was my tipping point. If an overworked editor has sense enough to capture this heavenly miracle with his family, I’d better rethink opportunity versus responsibility. After all, we won’t be around for the next solar eclipse that hovers over America.
I returned to peeling peaches. Mel stood to my left, slicing them into a measuring bowl.
Blessed be the wise counsel of the kitchen sink! Running water. Sweeping vistas outside the window. The scent of tomatoes, green bell peppers, and cucumbers awaiting my TLC.  
Sweetie, my long-departed Cocker Spaniel and fellow stargazer, came to mind. When i was a teen and our small home grew loud and crowded, Sweetie would follow me out the front door to our small, grassy patch.  We cuddled and studied the constellations.
“How many tomatoes are ripe for harvest?” I asked Mel.
“A lot.”
“Would you pick them so I can put them up after the peaches?”
Turned out that many tomatoes needed to ripen. So, like Uncle Tab does, I spread newspaper on the kitchen counter and arranged the tomatoes green side up. “Are there any beans to pick?”
“No, they need a few more days to fill out.”
“Enough time to see the totality of the solar eclipse?”
He smiled. “I guess. You’ll have to call Sue for the hens and Mo.”
“But you probably won’t find a room,” Sue said.
It's Saturday, 2:15 p.m. There's no time to track down eclipse glasses, so I've packed a slotted spoon and white paper for our journey into the path of totality, that one spot in Franklin, Kentucky where we will watch the Great American Solar Eclipse with our back to the sun.
Today, my side of the family gathers before sunset for a wedding, the last of my nieces and nephews to marry their beloved. I will dance with my sisters and husband.
Dear Reader, tomorrow morning two senior stargazers will rise early with a cooler of food, just in case Cracker Barrel has no vacant tables.
Please stay tuned for the rest of the story.

Music of Time & Travel

The Breaks Interstate Park in Virginia and Kentucky
Since the dawn of my empty nest, I’ve traveled home to Kentucky and back every summer. I've coveted this time alone—until last year. During my return, I fought road fatigue and determined it’s dangerous to drive solo any longer.
My husband took the wheel two weeks ago. As he turned onto I75’s detour, WRCJ featured the Beatles Concerto composed by John Rutter.
“Isn’t that Long and Winding Road?” he asked.
“Yes, one of my favorites. Who wrote this beautiful song?”
“I think George Harrison.”
The words of John Lennon and Paul McCartney spoke of our youth before and when we met, our unsettled college days and as newlyweds. We moved our firstborn daughter and residence six times the first year of our marriage.
            Mel turned off the expressway at a Cracker Barrel sign in Ohio. The man in the rocking chair means a meal of turnip greens, pinto beans, and corn bread—southern food at its best with the works: vinegar, chow-chow, and onions.
The featured dessert was a S’More Brownie in keeping with the chain’s campfire theme. We postponed our dessert for the return trip. Oh, how pampered is the modern traveler.
 After breakfast the next morning with Uncle Tab and Aunt Alma Leigh in Lexington, Kentucky, we followed Uncle Tab to his garden.
“Now, pull only the full beans,” my uncle said. “And the yeller ones are good, too.”
We sat poolside in the shade and strung half a bushel of beans. Afterward, we blanched and froze ten quarts.
“I want you to take five bags home,” he said. “Now, I’ve got ten minutes of hoeing to do.”
Really? Does this man ever rest? I picked up a hoe and learned again his meaning of “hoeing”: pull the blade aside a row of sprouted beans, banking the soil over the small weeds and trenching the soil to hold the rain.
The following day, when we visited my Uncle Herm in the McCoy Bottom, I saw the same method of hoeing. We left his gardens with cucumbers, cantaloupe, and potatoes.
My sister Patty and I pose for a moment of education.

The last of my heart’s desire was to view again The Breaks forested canyon, the boundary between Virginia and Kentucky, and hike their mountain trails. It had been years since I’d climbed through their rocky notches.
As Mel led the way, my Kentucky sister, Patty, and I followed under the dark canopy alive with birdsong. When we reached the road, the wild child within and the native grounds about provoked the Tarzan yodel from my youth. 
"You've still got it," Patty said.
We laughed when the forest emitted somewhat weaker attempts of Tarzan's call. 

Back to The Breaks and its birdsong.

As Mel and I neared Detroit last evening on I75, WRCJ’s Jack Goggin introduced a song from Patrick Doyle’s soundtrack of Shakespeare’s Henry V released in November 1989.  
We sat spellbound as a lone voice led a song titled “Non Nobis, Domine.” Other male voices joined to a moving crescendo.
Dear Reader, the English translation to the Latin lyrics of “Non Nobis, Domine” are, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give the glory.”
For all the music during our travels, for our safe journey home, to Thy name give the glory.

The Afterglow of Reunion

Warren Lincoln High School Class of 1967 50-Year Reunion Planners
Iris Underwood, Marty Halaas, Marilyn Haley, Sue Bendert
On this quiet, sunny Sabbath, my husband and I sat under our patio umbrella with a plateful of leftover potato salad and watermelon. Our conversation drifted to Stony Creek Metro Park, my 50th high school class reunion the previous Friday.
          No picnic is complete without Mom’s legendary comfort food, so I had seasoned a double portion of potatoes, onions, celery, and hard-boiled eggs with sincerity, just in case thirty classmates and spouses showed up.
          “After all these years, I had no idea what to expect,” I said to Mel.
          In 1992, he chose not to join me for my twenty-fifth Lincoln High reunion. It seems like yesterday, yet a lifetime. Back then, there was still hope for our firstborn’s deliverance from addiction. Our house sheltered two active teenaged daughters who dreamed of their independence. I dreamed of grandchildren. My parents and parents-in-law dreamed of great-grandchildren.
          “I wasn’t much different from my classmates then, ” I said. “We were all fairly fit, no gray hair, and self-conscious.”
          He smiled.
          “And I’m not much different from them today. I’ve put on some pounds, my hair’s grey, and I don’t care.”
          Gentle on our minds, we recalled the fine day and laughter under the park's pavilion. Marty, our reunion planner, grilled hamburgers and hotdogs for more than sixty graduates, dropouts, and their spouses. After burning social media’s circuits since January to track down our graduating class of 1967, flipping burgers was Marty’s ultimate reward.
           “Hey, I’m retired and can do what I want,” he said.
People echoed this mantra throughout the picnic in conclusion to mingled memories, family updates (particularly grandchildren count), and travel plans. Most of us are empty nesters and have buried parents, siblings, and children—not much remains to tie us down.
Al, my senior year boyfriend who I hadn’t seen in fifty years, invited us to visit him and his wife in Cheboygan. She smiled and nodded. Their hospitality caught us off guard.
Since Marty forwarded me the list of paid classmates to write nametags, I knew two weeks ago that Al and his wife had paid for the reunion dinner Saturday night. They didn’t note their attendance for the Friday picnic, however.
In the afterglow of sweet reunion in our backyard, Mel asked, “You didn’t know Al served in Viet Nam?”
“No. I heard nothing from or about him all these years. That’s why I was thankful to see him. His family was good to me when I needed them most.”
“So you didn’t know he lost a leg to agent orange several years ago?”
“No. I was shocked to see the prosthesis.”
Dear Reader, as the afternoon warmed to an ideal eighty degrees, we absorbed the nutrition of human fellowship and God’s faithfulness. We talked about Patrick, the younger brother Al lost to lung cancer—a common grief he and Mel share.
 Mel then suggested we stay the night at Presque Isle Lodge sometime in August and drive to Cheboygan in the morning.
“Good idea,” I said. “You’re retired now. Let’s do what you want.”