August always seems to be The Month. It’s the peak of summer in the northern hemisphere (for us, that means festivals, Burning Man, fun events, and good weather), and houses our wedding anniversary, Jesse’s birthday, and multiple other memorable dates.
This August, though, has been a doozy.
Correction: this year has been a doozy.
The last two months have been particularly intense. I started walking dogs for extra cash, and we traveled to the California State Fair in Sacramento: a cacophony of fried food, farm animals, and relentless heat. Within a day or two of coming home, we were boarding a plane to San Diego, nervous but ready to shoot our first wedding. (I really like La Jolla.)
After only two nights back at home, I was back on the road with Rigby, heading north to a farm for some extra work and a change of scenery. Two weeks on the farm flew by. Rigby made puppy friends and slept with me in a tent every night. Before I knew it, I was back in the car, speeding home to San Francisco at 1am on a Tuesday morning, straight into the welcoming arms of Jesse.
The next day, Nick (Jesse’s brother) arrived to celebrate Jesse’s approaching 30th birthday. After a couple of days of catching up and a whirlwind trip to Costco, we were back on the road, heading to Coarsegold – a tiny town on the outskirts of Yosemite national park. About 20 people (scattered over two nights) came and went. We filled an inflatable pool with water, made cocktails, ate, relaxed, watched a stunning sunset, and took turns playing music.
As night fell on the eve of his 30th birthday, Jesse played a beautiful deep house set while we watched the Perseids meteor shower at its peak, lying on our backs.
After this beautiful weekend away, we had about 48 hours to prepare and pack for the Oregon Eclipse Festival. Organized by Symbiosis Gathering, Rainbow Serpent Festival (where Jesse and I met), and a host of other world-renowned music festival groups, this week-long event was created around the total solar eclipse happening on August 21.
And what a week it was. On the day we left San Francisco to drive to Oregon, I had a morning interview in Mountain View. At the end of the interview, I let them know I would be getting straight back in the car and driving to Oregon for a week with no service. And that’s exactly what I did.
Getting into the event was exhausting, but no worse than the lines to get into Burning Man. But once we were there and settled, it was a magical experience. Stunning stages, music for everyone, a huge lake, a bathhouse, incredible food, and fascinating human beings from all over the world. To describe my experience would take thousands of words, and I’m not even sure I’d be able to find the right ones if I tried.
What I can try to describe, though, is the eclipse itself.
Before the event, I’d heard people talk about eclipses it as if they were something mystical, something bigger than just a cool-looking cosmic event. I had heard people describe it using words that didn’t seem to fit – like transformative, magical, or life-changing. I knew it would be a memorable experience, but nothing prepared me for the reality of looking at totality with the naked eye.
As we settled in to watch, the landscape drained of color. Dusk hit, but in every direction. The wind stopped and the temperature dropped. The sun went from an apple with a bite out of it, to a fat crescent that quickly got thinner and thinner. The whooping and hollering of 30,000+ people got louder and more frequent.
Then, suddenly, darkness. Night. Time seemed to stop. My ears rang.
I heard “take your glasses off! Take your glasses off!”
So I did, and there it was: a black sphere in the sky, surrounded by visible solar flares. A ring of light that seemed to breathe and move. Middle-of-the-night darkness at 10:20am.
All I remember is gasping and placing both hands over my mouth before realizing that there were tears streaming down my face. Was I crying? I was, but I barely felt it. It felt like a natural reaction to what I was seeing.
At that moment, I understood why people chase eclipses.
There’s something fundamentally disconcerting about having two full minutes of nighttime during mid-morning, having the sun ripped away from you when it should be dominating the sky. The rigid schedule of life on this tiny planet was violently disrupted. I was reminded of how insignificant we are.
As I gazed at totality, I held Jesse’s hand. I looked at him, tears in my eyes, pupils dilated with terror and awe and joy and the elation of just being alive.
As the sun returned, birds flew messily in the sky, confused, and we started to hear a familiar guitar riff playing from over the hill. Slowly, it got louder, and we realized it was the Beatles’ ‘Here Comes The Sun’, being blasted from the festival’s main stage, more than a mile (or two) away.
Reality returned. Color returned. The temperature rose. People started dancing and singing to the happy Beatles tune. We started stripping off layers, laughing, still in shock.
On the way back to camp, we asked a rough-looking fellow (rough, as in he had a loooooong night the night before) to take a photo of our group.
What else do you do after you witness something like that together?
A couple of days later (and a full week after we’d rolled in to the festival site), we got up at 4:30am and rolled out, making the 9.5 hour drive back to San Francisco in one day.
As soon as I had service, I checked my email and discovered that I’d been offered the contract that I’d interviewed for before leaving. It took a couple of days to sink in properly that, yes, I was about to be working as a contractor at Google. Sure, I’d be saying goodbye (already) to dog walking, farm work, and other casual, less stressful income sources, but to work with talented, experienced product writers at a company I’d always admired? No-brainer. I’m swallowing the Kool-Aid for now.
Above all, it feels wonderful to come home. To our bed, a solid routine, good food, good company, fog, Golden Gate Park, a new job, weekend hikes, running water… and most of all, I’m happy that I can unpack my toiletries after a couple of months of living in and out of suitcases.
I’m sad to be missing Burning Man, but I’d be lying if I said I had any regrets about skipping this year. I’m so, so happy to be home. I’m so grateful for the last couple of months, but I’m ready to dig my heels in – right here – for a little while.