Eclipse (feat. Bats!) (2017) 24″ x 37″

Eclipse (feat. Bats!) (2017) 24″ x 37″

We traveled to Kentucky with an old friend to see the total solar eclipse this year. We had been warned that we might encounter traffic jams (possibly starting an entire state away from our destination), hours-long lines at restaurants, shortages of bottled water, or parking lots and fields full of shoulder-to-shoulder mobs all wearing eclipse glasses.

The only traffic jams we experienced were due to construction projects on, apparently, every single bridge crossing the Ohio river. We checked in at our state park lodge, where there were plenty of parking spaces, and had dinner in a dining room that was not memorable, but also not in the least crowded.

The next morning we reconnoitered to figure out the best viewing spot. The lodge parking lot, grounds and pool area were getting crowded. There was a beach in the park a couple of miles away, and they were planning to close the parking lot there a couple of hours before the eclipse. We decided to take a hike through the woods from the lodge to the beach to avoid the parking mess. Apparently no one else thought this was a good idea (it was about 95 degrees out, so I had moments of doubt myself), and there was not another soul on the hiking trail.

We found the beach, and it was crowded—not packed yet, but there were quite a lot of people. But on the way there, we had passed a picnic pavilion that looked interesting, so we backtracked to check it out.

It was amazing.

It was in a grassy field, maybe an acre in size, right off the hiking trail. There was a parking lot, but the entrance to it must have been closed as there were no cars or people anywhere near. There was a picnic shelter, which provided benches, tables and SHADE! And RESTROOMS! Also the shelter was on a hill that just happened to be angled so that we could lie on the hill and face the sun, meaning we could watch the eclipse without craning our necks. We kept looking around for hordes of people to descend on our perfect, private spot, but it never happened.

So we lay on the hill and watched. The sun slowly disappeared, we put our glasses on and we ooh’ed and aah’ed. We took shelter in the shade occasionally, sipped water, then went back and stared at the sun some more.

Totality happened, and we gasped and shouted and clapped. It really was unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. It was some sort of primal drama taking place over our heads, breathtaking and frightening. It was crazy.

I had determined I was not going to obsess over taking pictures but would just try to experience the eclipse in the moment. Once we’d looked for a few seconds and passed binoculars back and forth, of course, I thought, well, maybe just a couple of pictures…knowing they wouldn’t be great because all I had was an iPhone and I knew it wouldn’t be able to focus well on the sun. So I took a couple, fumbling around and trying to keep my eyes on the sun, not getting a good focus, stabbing the exposure controls randomly, accidentally turning my phone to the video setting while my arms were waving…you know how it goes. But it was okay, because I SAW it. That was enough. The pictures would just make me laugh later.

But you know what? Somehow my phone, in that arm-flailing few seconds of video, managed to both somehow focus on the sun AND capture the little swarm of bats that burst over our heads (coming out of the picnic shelter, no doubt) as soon as full darkness hit.

So when I got home, I got to work on extracting single frames from that little snip of video, and my work became this knitted piece. It captures (after much adjusting of gradients and testing of many shades of blue yarn) what the glowing darkness of totality really looked like. It was like night, but with a blue glow just above the horizon. The bats flew over our heads very quickly, just little dark blurs spinning wildly into the woods. The sun was burning blackness, a hole with white fire around it.

If you saw the total eclipse yourself, I hope this image reminds you of what you witnessed. If you didn’t, I hope it gives you a little bit of the gooseflesh-inducing experience we had. For me, I’m pretty sure it will always help me remember lying on that hillside, just three of us, looking up, and gasping.

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