Northbound to the Solar Eclipse

I hated to admit how dependent I had become on FD driving me places. Over the last seventeen years, he has done all of the driving on long trips. And I could only think of a couple of times where I drove a few hours to relieve him. Thinking back, the longest journey I have ever made on my own was a five-hour drive. I knew though, that breaking up my trip to Nebraska by staying with my niece, Rachel, in Wichita, Kansas would make the drive doable. Actually, the biggest challenge I faced with this trip, was the new truck we had just purchased. With it, I was concerned that all of the new technology might be a little overwhelming. The morning I started my journey, a niece in Nebraska texted me saying, “I hope you are not driving down the road in the rain, wondering how to turn on your windshield wipers?”. Funny, that very thought had occurred to me at one point as I spotted dark clouds ahead. Luckily, the wipers operated just like the older model trucks.

It was the GPS that turned out to be the biggest headache, as it did not recognize my niece’s address in Wichita. On top of that, it spent more time “acquiring signal” than it did having a signal, and the voice activation was often delayed. Also, a couple of times there was street confusion – the GPS made the decision to take me to Splitwood Way street instead of East Splitwood Way which is what I had programmed into the system. Fortunately, I had visited Rachel before and knew my way by sight at that point. I did, however, get lost in a detour the next day while heading out of Wichita. I was following GPS instructions but, of course, the detour did not allow the course that the GPS indicated. In the end, it was my gut instinct, looking at the position of the sun, and the eventual rerouting of the GPS that got me back on track.

Over the rest of the trip, it was fairly easy to figure out many of the other bells and whistles the truck had to offer.  The touch screen in front of me made everything easy. My niece Rachel and my sister Juli, who were much more proficient at operating these gadgets, were kind and encouraging in helping me learn. I appreciated their hands-on lessons because I generally dislike reading through owner’s manuals. Rachel discovered (and loved) the massaging seats setting, which I found utterly ridiculous for the driver’s seat. Wouldn’t that make a person sleepy? Rachel smiled and said, “You really need to live a little, Aunt Lori”. Maybe she is right, but I never did give the massaging seats a whirl. My brother gave his ‘man’ approval on the truck, but indicated if I was to drive any gravel or rock roads that I needed to get some mud flaps. And I found out fairly quickly that “Ruby” could certainly move when I put my foot to the pedal. I will get to those situations in another post, but both times I broke speed limits due to my niece Emily having some kind of “emergency” due to being late and/or forgetting something. I swear, what aunties will do for their nieces and nephews…

I flew by the seat of my pants on this trip, and I found that I managed everything, and even more than I hoped for. Mom and I were able to spend time together several days during the week. She seemed to be feeling better and managing well. I generally do not get to see much of my sister Lisa, who lives another hour away, but we had two days together. One of those afternoons, she and I worked at our brother Dale’s place, helping him cut young trees and hauling them to the burn pile. Over the course of the trip, I stayed at my sister Juli’s home, helping her around the house and running errands. One evening, I met up with some old friends at the local bar to catch up on many years worth of stories and have some good laughs. I did not follow my usual Paleo diet this trip either. Instead, I ate whatever was available. As a result, I went home seven pounds heavier, but I figured the pecan orchard would whoop me back into shape in no time! No worries there.

But the highlight of the trip was the day of the solar eclipse. Juli and I decided we would make it a fun day for mom, and headed to her home in Cordova, Nebraska. Juli had just worked the night shift at a nearby hospital so she was tired, but we were none the less excited about spending the next hours taking in the eclipse with mom. Besides, we had a few silly ideas up our sleeves to pass the time while we waited for the big event. And we were surprised when we got to Mom’s to find my sister Lisa and her family! With the roads predicted to be heavy with traffic that day, we did not feel any of the family would venture south to Mom’s house. And, before long, my brother Dale and his wife Omelea arrived, even though Dale had not been too keen about coming to watch the event, as he had lots of work to do back at the farm, so we were surprised to see them as well.

With such a large group now gathered together, Juli pointed out that we might want to head a mile out of town to the small Danish cemetery where our mom’s relatives are buried to view the eclipse. That way, we would not be bothered by the lights of town if the skies got dark. While we discussed this plan with others, we noticed mom visiting with some folks who were walking by her home. Apparently, these people were from Minneapolis, Minnesota and had driven to Lincoln to see the eclipse. On discovering that two busloads of people from Lincoln were driving to Cordova to view the eclipse, they too thought it sounded like an out-of-the-way place to get off of the beaten path. After visiting a bit, we invited this family to join us out at the cemetery.

Attempting to be funny, Juli and I created signs mimicking some of the outrageous advertising we had seen in stores! Everyone had a good laugh at our price gouging.

As we drove slowly down the gravel road to the cemetery, I felt that prideful pull that I often feel when I return to Nebraska during the summer and fall months. I never enjoyed the cold, blustery winters growing up in the north. But I did love the summer weather, the crops, and the hum of irrigation motors. Lush green fields surrounded us now. Corn and soybean fields were visible for miles and the roads were quiet. Only the summer winds rippling through the fields made a soft, swooshing noise. Come fall, the roads would be busy with harvest in full swing. The hum of distant grain elevators would carry for miles and grain dust would fill the skies. As we pulled into the cemetery, tall corn plants greeted us, surrounding the cemetery fences like sentries. The smell of earth and damp from recent rains filled my nostrils. It was an oddity to feel so alive in what was a final resting place for so many. And how appropriate for many of these resting souls to be farmers and farmers wives, surrounded by corn.

I do not even remember taking this pre-eclipse shot, but this shows light cloud cover all around.
View looking west towards our family camp.
Our view of the Minnesota people setting up.

The Minnesota visitors parked on the next gravel pathway just a short distance from us. As we piled out of the pickup, they were setting up some sort of apparatus to view the sun with. We set out lawn chairs and soon everyone was chattering and having a good laugh about how silly we all looked in our solar eyeglasses. I must tell on myself that, as prepared as I always am, I absent-mindedly left my pack of ten, solar eye glasses back in Oklahoma. Fortunately, Juli’s mother-in-law had ordered a package of twenty-five glasses and had some to spare. For the next hour, while waiting for the beginning moments of the eclipse, we visited and laughed. Even Spike and Honey, Dale and Omelea’s dogs, seemed to enjoy the gathering of family and the fresh air.

I was surprised, looking back at this photo, to note that out of all of us who are generally glued to our electronic devices, only mom, of all people, was talking away on her cell phone!
Tyler is my very quiet and introverted nephew. This trip I learned he was more worried about insects landing on him than going blind from the sun!
Hmm, I had not considered one would need their regular glasses too!
Mom really enjoyed having her family around. She mentioned this was the first time she had viewed a solar eclipse. She was generally too busy to observe one in the past.
My brother’s dogs seemed to enjoy the outing, though I think Spike (in black) got a little too interested in the Minnesota folks and ventured off that way several times without permission. Honey is very old and blind. Mostly, she just tottered around in circles.
The eclipse begins!
The Minnesota astronomer fellow designed and built the apparatus that the binoculars were mounted on. It was quite impressive.
Lisa, Juli, and me checking the progress of the eclipse.
Here I am, viewing the solar eclipse at the cemetery where my grandparents are buried. The entire day was nothing short of amazing!
I asked my niece Sarah, to take a few photographs of me for a blog post. I see she added a few selfies… 😀
Just 36 minutes before totality, a rain cloud threatened to ruin our experience.
During the 2 minutes and 29 seconds of totality, we experienced near sunset darkness and chirping crickets.
What a gift it was to meet the Minnesota people. We could not thank them enough for making our experience so special! They were so very kind and generous. My niece Sarah asked a lot of good questions.

Just as the beginning stage of the eclipse started, the Minnesota folks invited us over to have a look through their special binoculars. I was the first to venture over, mainly because they had approached us twice by then and I felt it would be rude not to have a look since they insisted. I was not prepared for what I saw! Viewing the eclipse through this binoculars with special filters was one hundred times more magnificent than what we were seeing through our now pathetic-in-comparison, solar glasses. One by one, each of us ventured over. The elder member of the Minnesota group happened to be an astronomer, but it was clear the entire family was knowledgeable about the solar eclipse, planets, stars, and the galaxies. Those of us who were interested, stood around the Minnesota folks and took in our science lesson. I thought of my friend Ruthie, back in Oklahoma. She is a retired science teacher and, on every outing we have together, she teaches me something I did not know. She would have really enjoyed being here today. My brother was the last to venture over to have a look through the binoculars, and I wished I had a picture of him as he stepped back. Here was a man just now convinced of the magnificence of what was taking place in the solar system around him. I cannot say how many times I saw him venture back over there. For a guy whose hip gives him pain daily, that hip got a lot of exercise that afternoon!

In this video I simply wished to show the darkness at the corona stage of the eclipse. Later a niece asked if anyone heard the crickets chirping… and sure enough, the video captured their night noise.

Unfortunately, I did not get a lot of great shots with my iPhone that day, and I purposefully left my DSLR camera back at Juli’s house. Deep inside I did not want to be the photographer, documenting the event for the blog or for everyone in the family. Instead, I wanted to see, and feel, and simply remember. I still get goosebumps thinking about that morning/afternoon. Those were precious moments with my family… and a special time with strangers, who shared their knowledge and binoculars with us, giving us a view far greater than we had any idea could be had in a country cemetery. Just after the corona stage, when the bright diamond burst forth from the ring, something happened to all of us… a connection, emotion, something overwhelming that I could only describe in the human word, love. There were oooh’s and ahhh’s and exclamations of amazement. We began hugging each other – even the Minnesota family! Some of our eyes welled up with tears, and all of us had big, knowing smiles as we continued to embrace each other.  And for a few, glorious moments, everything was bright, alive and beautiful.

Having dealt with light cloud cover most of the morning, we were pleased to see an opening in the sky just before the eclipse’s corona stage – the clouds parted to blue skies! The white truck belonged to a woman who is on the cemetery board. I wondered if she was present to make sure no shenanigans took place!

© 2017 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 

 


45 thoughts on “Northbound to the Solar Eclipse

  1. The perfect setting, wide open spaces and not congested. My bestie, Susan, was able to come over from Iowa to join us. She and I once taught science together in middle school. It was a great memory to make and have. That tripod is amazing. Bill bought some solar binoculars, but we used them handheld with the corresponding shakiness. I will have to look on the internet to see if there are any construction plans available. We stayed at an airbnb rental outside of Leavenworth, but when I went to the grocery store in Leavenworth, the Price Chopper, I think, I met some people from Massachusetts who had come to see it.

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    1. Kim, I do remember the astronomer man telling us about “http://www.okie-tex.com/”, which is a yearly event where all sorts of people meet to watch the stars. You might check the “Who’s Coming” tab on the website and see if there is anyone near you that might be able to help you with tripod instructions. The handle (made of a light gym weight) was so easy to manipulate to get just the right view. It was quite impressive!

      I bet people from all over the nation (and other parts of the world) could be seen all along the pathway. We just felt so fortunate to meet the Minnesota people… and what a gift they were to teach us and allow us to observe in a way we never imagined!

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  2. Wow and wow. This was a really good read. So enjoyable. So your mom is part Danish. My mother is also and when she was young, spoke Danish, high and low German.

    But back to the eclipse story. How wonderful that your mother had her children for a momentous day while seeing an eclipse for the first time.

    Loved everything about your story. Ruby is a beauty. What make is it? I thought it might be a Ford but could not really tell for sure since the tail gate was down. I’m glad that overall, you had an uneventful trip.

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    1. Yvonne, my mother is full Dane. Her father came from Denmark when he was just sixteen. My grandparents and great-grandparents spoke Danish. I know a few words – mostly endearing terms Grandpa taught us!

      You sure know your vehicles – Ruby is a Ford. My family have always been Chevy people. FD is a Ford guy. My dad was a mechanic and generally helped some of the young kids in town with their vehicles. He worked on Ford’s but he grumbled and griped about them. I wonder if he knows his last two rides were in Ford vehicles? Ha ha… the ambulance and the hearse.

      The eclipse was outstanding… I can’t wait for the one that will sweep through Texas in 2014. I haven’t checked to see if you are in the path or not. I know Dallas is… we may have to visit FD’s Sissy Jo that week!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s wonderful to know that you are part Danish. I don’t know how much Danish I am. I just know that my mother and I think all the sisters spoke Danish as my mother did. The family farm was on the Danish border in north western Germany. During WW1 their farm was in Denmark and after the war it was again part of Germany, The little village was called Bau. My mother’s favorite sister married a Dane named Steensen. He was a fine cabinet and furniture maker. They owned a farm about 10 miles from my town.

        My Dad always drove a chevy. I drove two used Chevies years ago and then had one 92 Ford Explorer. I still have it parked under a carport. I now drive a 98 GMC and have another 2007 GMC truck that I am letting my son drive. I am sold on GMC. vdhicles. Made very sturdy and mine is a 3/4 ton with extra heavy duty suspension. Everything still works and I like the high cab. I just wish I had GPS and it would be perfect. Just spent $800 on brakes and some other front end work.

        But the time the next eclipse arrives I’ll probably be dead. It is still years away and in about three months, I’ll be 81. Gee the years are whizzing by.

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        1. My grandfather came from Vamdrup, on the southern tip of Denmark – the Jutland region. Not sure where Grandma’s folks originated from in Denmark. I come from a family of writers. Great granddad left a journal of life in the tiny town of Cordova, where my mother still lives. Great Grandma wrote too, but her writing is mostly in Dane. I treasure my copy of that journal… these people loved life in America. My grandpa, who lived in socialist Denmark until he came here at the age of 16, spoke to us kids often about how fortunate we were to live in a free country. I think things must have been awful back in those days before he came here.

          When we bought the newer truck, FD had all sorts of inquiries about the old 1996 Ford F-350 1 ton pickup. We will likely hang onto that thing forever. It is our work horse in the orchard now, pulling loads of big timber (which we need to learn how to market – we have several dead trees that can provide good pecan wood for furniture or sculpting, and tons of fire wood for the smaller stuff). As you know, it’s far cheaper to spend $800 here and there every so often, than to buy a new truck with all of these electronics that cost a small fortune to replace.

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          1. Yes, for sure keep your one ton truck. You need power to pull and haul. My 3/4 ton is prety good as there is no longer need for hauling steel to make fences, gates, etc.

            My mother said the same thing about living in Germany. Freedom is to be valued and cherished and never taken for granted. She lived through WW1 and it was no picnic. Those were the times that their farm was in Denmark and then it went back to Germany. It was in the northwestern part of Germany, When the family sailed for the US they were on a Danish ship captioned by a Dane. My mother talked about those crossings lots of times. They came to Texas at first for four years and then went back to Germany. After WW1 the brothers and sisters all came back to Central Texas. I have relatives in Oklahoma, first cousins (dad’s side) but I’m not in touch with any of them. I have other cousins in the Panhandle (mom’s side) that I have never met and have no idea of their names.

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  3. We went up to Tennessee from Alabama to see the eclipse, the sky remained clear and it was amazing! The small town filled with many people cheered when it began. We could hear the crickets chirping too.

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    1. Yes, Mandeep, that was one photo of several selfies Sarah left on my camera! I laughed so hard when I saw those… I truly had a difficult time picking just the right one. Ha ha. That girl had a blast that day. She actually asked some of the most interesting questions when visiting with the Minnesota family.

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  4. Oh, my. Lori, thank you for sharing this family experience. I read your joy, your love, your exuberance in every word. And to know that a Minnesota family added to that pleases me. Your love for your family and your love for rural Nebraska simply shines in your storytelling.

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    1. Thank you so much, Audrey! I thought of you so much that day… just felt a real connection celebrating with the Minnesota folks.

      There were many years I did not see the beauty of Nebraska. It feels good to enjoy it now… so much of it has to do with agriculture, the farmers and the little towns with the big grain elevators. We grew up next to the
      BNSF train tracks, and my sister Juli (where I stay most times) lives next to the tracks. Every night when I go to bed I hear the first couple of trains pass through (they come through every 15 minutes to 30 minutes) with their long, shrill whistles blaring, and just like when I was a kid, I fall asleep and I do not hear another whistle, though they continue to roll through all night long. I miss the trains. I miss the grain elevator noise all during harvest and into the winter. And I miss the hum of irrigation motors all summer long. I think you understand…

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        1. Mine too. That’s why I love the work I do in the orchard. It is different than farming back in Nebraska, but it’s still a way for me to be in touch with the earth and grow. It is the overall outdoor experience, and a fierceness and love to protect it.

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  5. A great write-up, Lori. I could feel the excitement and overwhelming emotion of the event. Am also impressed with you making the trip safely (and back!) in a vehicle with all the bells & whistles of today’s models. I still have a 2004 Chevy sedan and just k nowing I’ll have to get used to these enhancements when I’ll be forced to get a newer car makes me anxious.​ Unfortunately, where I am in CT we had a heavy cloud cover and since we were on the periphery of the eclipse we didn’t see anything much. So it was extra meaningful to read your post. Thanks so much! Gail in CT P.S. I loved the photo you posted on Facebook showing your new chin standing off to the side while Mr. T (Bear?) hogged all the toys. That was so cute!

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    1. Gail, I was dreading getting a new vehicle too – for the same reason. But, there are still the manual buttons and dials, so if you do not wish to use the more technical devices, you don’t have to.

      So many people had clouds and rain the day of the eclipse. The light cloud cover we had still allowed us to see everything, and of course just before the corona stage, we got lucky when a clearing of blue sky opened up. The whole experience was just amazing. I still get goosebumps thinking about it!

      I need to get a post out about Oscar and Mr. T. Oscar is really growing – he’s 6 lbs now, and Mr. T (who has lost 3 lbs due to increased activity) is a wonderful big brother. The roughhousing is getting tougher now though. Oscar is speedy and quick, but Mr. T knows how to hold his own. That photo you’re talking about was hilarious. Mr. T likes to hog the toys!

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  6. Another opportunity created just to remind you (and us) there can be amazing moments, very unexpected, that rejuvenate, inspire and allow us to enjoy being alive! …….and have a chance to put away all the mundane stuff that drives us crazy, usually. To life!
    Judith, The Lioness

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    1. Well said, Judith!! It’s been a long road for me to learn to fly… instead of plodding along doing the “mundane stuff” that I feel like I’m supposed to do. I feel a lot of thankfulness these days, for the life I have. It is an amazing life. My walk with nature has changed my perspective. Letting go of a lot of that crazy stuff was the best thing I ever did for myself.

      To life, my friend! It IS good! 😀

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  7. Your mishaps with the GPS reminds me of my experience driving into Christchurch, New Zealand, half a year ago. The map app on my phone wasn’t aware of highway construction and kept telling me to turn where the construction made it impossible to turn. Eventually I canceled the directions and drove in the direction I knew I needed to go. More often than not, though, the navigation is an asset, especially at night.

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    1. That is true, Steve. Especially when driving solo, I think the GPS will be a great help. Most construction is supposed to be updated on the system. My niece pointed out the detour I ran into in Wichita was likely due to an accident so the reroute would have been temporary.

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  8. I just relived every special moment of the eclipse with you and our family, reading your post! It was such a majestic event, and I’m so thankful we were able to experience it all together!! I still get goosebumps reminiscing it all, I believe we were all a bit awestruck in the moment of such beauty. And the Minnesota family was such a blessing to just happen upon, they were so thoughtful and giving; I do hope we see them again some day!! Beautiful post, Sister!

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    1. Thank you, Jules. I left my card so hopefully we can keep in touch with the MN folks. I am so happy we all had a good time, and that Mom seemed to enjoy herself. I was most surprised at Dale, who had so much to do at home that day… funny how he was all agog with the mysteries of the Universe as soon as the eclipse began! I think we were all struck about how magnificent it was, thanks to the view the MN people shared. What a gift they were!

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  9. Really special! I loved reading and seeing the photographs. Thanks, Lori, for making your trip available for us.

    P. S. I found not a few poetic materials here. They often appear in your writing. In this case, I couldn’t help focusing on one very moving paragraph and looking for the poem inside. This is what I saw (through shortened phrases, a few altered verb forms, one noun substitution, and one rearranged sentence)

    Dust to Dust

    As we drove down the gravel road
    lush green surrounded us —
    Corn and soybean visible for miles.

    Summer winds rippled through the fields,
    a soft swooshing noise. 

    At the cemetery fences, like sentries,
    tall corn greeted us, and the smell of earth,
    damp from recent rains.

    It was an oddity to feel so alive
    in a resting place for these souls,
    farmers and farmers’ wives,
    surrounded by corn.

    Come fall, the roads will be busy with harvest.
    The hum of grain elevators carries for miles,
    and grain dust will fill the skies

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Albert, that is lovely! It is always interesting what others see and feel in another person’s writing. I never once thought of my words as poetry. You made it more than just an observation… the lilt of the poetry gives the words a much greater connection to earth and sky. Thank you for your gift, Albert.

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    1. Sarah is a hoot! I actually had a hard time deciding on which of her selfies to use. Perhaps I need her to give me some lessons on selfies… I truly suck at them. I really enjoyed the eclipse. It felt good to watch the varied reactions, and even finding a bit of surprise in the moment for myself. It truly was an amazing experience.

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  10. I echo your comments about being moved by the whole experience. Even thought I had to work, I brought glasses to the office and led each patient, and the staff members, outside to take a look. It seemed that for one day, the country was united in the joy of nature and science. ❤
    I love that you were with family in that cemetery! Awesome!

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    1. I love the fall season too, and until I moved away from corn country I didn’t realize how special that was. This visit for the eclipse and to help family was just on the cusp of the swing into harvest. While I was there I could still enjoy the humidity and earthy scent of crops, and the hum of irrigation wells. Soon the hum of grain bins and elevators will fill the air, along with machinery traffic and harvest dust drifting in the wind. I never thought I’d miss that, but I do. FD and I may have to make another trip back up before snow flies!

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    1. What a bummer! I actually forgot mine back in Oklahoma, but lucked out and fortunately my family had plenty to spare. But it was truly the Minnesota folks that saved the day and gave us the experience of a lifetime. What we saw through their binoculars was just huge and detailed. I shall never forget how special that day was.

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      1. Everyone I know who experienced it was blown away. And I know a guy who drove up to Nebraska to watch it. I was late for this dance. Snooze and lose, and all of that.

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        1. I would have enjoyed it all by myself, but the fact that I was with family made it unbelievably special. Mostly, it was watching the thrill of reaction, and sometimes tears of joy… especially my brother who had so many things to do that day – who ended up being the most amazed and thrilled at those two minutes of splendor. I’ll never forget how I felt that day, and the thrill of it all. I wish you had been there, my friend.

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  11. Hi Lori, I am glad the day of the eclipse was so special for you. Your account reminds me of the custom in some countries of visiting the graves of family members on special days. The family, both living and dead, are joined on those days.
    Sarah’s selfie is a delight.

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    1. In America we have a few dates to visit graves, Memorial Day being the most celebrated. I did not think of my Grandparent’s so much that day – it just happened to be a secluded spot just a couple of miles from my mom’s home. It was out of the way and allowed us a spectacular view with open sky and no artificial lighting (during the darkened time). We all were excited and had a fabulous time, but I think Sarah’s joy was most noted. She asked some great questions of the Minnesota experts and she seemed totally enthralled with the event. She’s full of vim and vigor most of the time… and always up to some shenanigan! 😀

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