Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My eclipse experience!

I didn't actually have big plans for the eclipse originally.  I tend to get caught up in my daily life, and all the regular stuff, that sometimes I forget about these big events.  I remember an eclipse when I was in grade school, though looking at the dates, it must have been an annular (where the moon is smaller than the sun) and not a total eclipse, because I would have only been 1 year old at the last total eclipse! 

But what I remember is the wonder and fascination.  I vaguely remember some kind of glasses, though I also sort of remember the pinhole box thing, so I don't actually know how we viewed it, but we did stuff for the eclipse at school.  I was really surprised that so many schools closed for the eclipse.  My son's high school didn't, however he brought a form home that we could sign that would allow him to stay home, 'officially' so that we could watch the eclipse from a better viewing location.  He went to school, but said that very few people did.

Because I didn't have big plans, I didn't actually have glasses or really any kind of set idea about what I wanted to do.  Then I saw someone post pictures of painted rocks they made in honor of the eclipse.  I love painted rocks, and really work with rocks a lot (both actual crystals as well as ordinary rocks), and knew I just had to try my hand at it.  And then my art journaling group had the eclipse as this week's prompt, so now I was doing eclipse stuff!

On the morning of the eclipse, I decided to start with my rocks.  I had some of those plain black rocks that are sold for decorations (I got mine from the dollar store, though you can also find them at the hardware store or craft stores).  I use these for all kinds of purposes, but I love to paint them.  Normally I use nail polish (I love the durability and I have tons of bottles in all kinds of colors and glitter options), but I think because I saw painted rocks and was thinking of my art journal I went with proper paint this time.

The first step I have to do when painting these kind of rocks is wash them really good with hot water and soap.  They always have a sort of waxy coating on them, and it doesn't completely come off, but it gets better.  I assume the coating is to make them look sort of shiny like polished river rocks, but it's not kind when you want paint (or polish) to stick to them.  Then I cut little circles out of a post-it to use as a blocking stencil.

My thought was that the rocks were black enough I could paint the halo, using the post-it to keep the center unpainted, which would make it look like the eclipse.  Post-its are sticky enough to keep in place, but easy to peel off (because trying to peel off actual tape without messing up your paint edge doesn't work well).  What I forgot the first time through was that I have to take the stencil off as soon as I am done painting.  If I let it dry with the stencil in place, the paint peels off with it.

Of course, I painted both the gold and silver parts of the halo, and used a hair drier to set the paint and then tried to peel the stencil off....only to peel off the paint with it!  I knew I'd have to redo them, so I figured I'd try my hand at painting the detail before I did, so I knew if it would work or if I'd just have to leave them plain (because I could see that just the metallic halo looked pretty cool on it's own).  I used the stencil to mark out the edge for a tiny yellow crescent, and then added a white starburst.  I tried to add a bit of white haze too (as the one I saw had it and it looked neat), but I couldn't get mine to look right, and I thought it looked nice without it so that's what I decided to do.

A bit of nail polish remover took the paint off my rocks, and I started again, this time painting and removing the stencil right away.  I actually got brave and painted the crescent on one of my rocks free-hand (and wasn't that hands shake with tiny detail work, so frustrating).  But I was super happy with how my rocks turned out!  They have been sitting on my desk altar now, and it's fun to be able to look up and see the shiny metallic halo, and I absolutely love how the crescent and star effect came out. 

Once my stones were painted, I wrote in my art journal for a bit, working through the prompts about the eclipse.  I am really loving the process of journaling and then painting (or collaging) over my journal entry.  I have so many ideas about things to art journal in the future!  I had thought I might actually get my page painted before the eclipse, but by the time I got my stones to where I wanted them, and had painted on the Gesso (to help cover the writing and give the paper in my journal extra weight), I knew I wouldn't have time to paint the page properly, so I decided to paint it later.

I was not in the path of totality, but we were at a .99 magnitude (over 1 is considered a we were close), and I had looked up the times, ours hit at 1:30, but stretched for just under 3 hours around that time.  I knew I wanted to charge my eclipse stones outside in the eclipse light, so hunted about for a place to set them.  I am always nervous setting things outside unattended (and I knew I wouldn't be outside for the full time of the eclipse) because we do have neighbors and little kids, and these were shiny painted rocks!  But there was no good place out back on our tiny patio, so I set them out front on one of the columns near our door where they got the full light.

I went out myself about five minutes before the peak of the eclipse.  Most of our neighbors had gathered in the front, and there were quite a few kids.  I knew I wanted to sit and just enjoy the experience, so I went out back, toting my art journal with me.  I didn't have glasses, but I also know that I can do quick glimpses at the sun (I don't recommend this....I'm not always smart with myself lol), so I sat out with my journal open to my eclipse page on my lap and let the sun wash over me.

I'd look up for one blink, then close my eyes.  I could see the afterimage of the eclipse with my eyes closed, and it was really interesting to watch it change as time passed.  I could see the sky getting darker and more blue.  Colors seemed to be changing, and the temperature dropped.  It had been really hot and muggy, and now it was sort of cool and pleasant.  As I was looking around, it was just different enough to make it feel like I was looking at the world through a strangers eyes, or that the world around me was subtly different from the one I was used to.  It was a fascinating feeling.

I was leaning backward, looking at the more-blue-than-usual grass, and had another moment of slight disorientation.  Something about the way I was leaning and the angle of the hill of grass behind me, made it feel like the world was curved.  I lay back, so I could see nothing but sky and arched my head so I was looking at the sky below me and the curved horizon of grass above me.  It was a total inversion of the world, and crazy cool. 

I lay there, for the rest of the eclipse, watching the sky get darker.  The sun itself was no longer directly in my view, but off to the side, so I could stare at the sky easily.  And I thought:  about taking this moment to pause, about just existing in that space.  It was something I had written as my intention for the day (I set an intention each morning as part of my calendar work), and today it was to pause.

I realized I don't often just stop and let myself BE.  I do often zone out, or tune into something like music or a show, but I haven't been spending as much time tuning inward, sitting with my breath and the earth and the sky...and I missed it!

For me, this really encapsulated the eclipse.  I my not have planned ahead, but I did decide that I wanted those moments, that time right at the eclipse, to just be, and to be me.  I didn't care about what the neighbors were doing, if they were to come out back and see me and wonder.  In that moment, none of that mattered to me.  I found my peace and stillness and I cherished it.

My last moment of wonder with the eclipse came as I was walking down to get the mail.  We were still in the eclipse window, and I noticed the light filtering through the big tree onto the driveway.  I had seen instructions for viewing the eclipse through small holes (like a strainer or the holes in your blinds) by looking at the shadows it created, but I thought it was particularly lovely to see these crescents of light where there would normally be just random patterns.  I think there is something really special with noticing these kind of magical, natural moments.  Things we normally don't even register, but something happens to make them different, and all of a sudden it is this unique crazy thing and when we stop and take notice, it changes us.

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