The Solar Eclipse

The solar eclipse coincided with my annual one-day summer visit to the island where I used to live. I go mid-week to avoid the crowds, and most often make the trip alone. Every summer, as the planned day draws closer, I don’t make a big thing about it, because at least one person will tell me they want to join me, and I usually regret bringing people. I end up feeling like a host, and I don't make the trip to be about anything but that beach. Even my beloved dog stays home.

I invited you that day, but you said no.

At minus tide, the beach opens an unexpected expanse one wouldn’t guess was possible when the water is higher. There are never more than two or three people in view, and without fail at least one eagle languidly circles the tops of the trees that sit high on the cliffs that bank the beach. I can see the city far off to the south, the dim outline of Rainier, the mountain range across the water, and sometimes cargo ships in the passage. The last few years I've been obsessed with picking up purplish sand dollars stranded in the sun. I carefully set them in nearby pools of water, and guilt kicks in if I even think about leaving one of them behind. It's not like they can save themselves.  

That day of the solar eclipse, my sister was in town to visit my niece, who was dealing with the end of her young marriage. I invited them to come with me, and along with my niece’s sweet dog Bodie, we took the ferry to the island. We didn't have eclipse glasses, so my sister bought a heavy card stock-framed pair for twenty bucks from some lady selling them on the passenger deck. We were somewhat dubious about their efficacy, but they were better than nothing, we decided.

We got to the beach just in time, and traded off looking at the eclipse, while Bodie ran far down the sand in the darkening silver light, and we were happy we bought those overpriced glasses.

They reminded me of the X-Ray Specs I ordered from the back of a comic book the summer I was six years old. I thought I would be able to see through walls and people's clothes, and when they arrived in the mail, I opened the large white envelope, thrilled, knowing these glasses would change everything. The frames were made from heavy card stock, and there were feathers tightly packed into the eyeholes. They were not what a six-year-old was expecting when they ordered X-Ray Specs.

When I got home from the beach, you showed me photos you’d taken of the curious little crescent-shaped shadows the eclipse manifested on the sidewalk in front of our house. You were bringing in large mason jars filled with tap water you had left outside during the eclipse, and then you poured the water into smaller jars to give as gifts to your clients, neatly labeled Solar Eclipse, 8/21/17. We were both trained to be therapists, and this approach was where our paths diverged, I suppose. One of more than a few.

Those X-Ray Specs are long gone. I wish I had them. I’d show them to my friends, and we’d laugh, and probably fall silent for a bit contemplating how idealistic six-year-olds can be.

I don’t think I’ve changed that much, I guess. I try to see what I want to see. I thought being with you would change everything, but sometimes it’s all just tightly packed feathers.

Lori Magnuson is a queer writer in her 60s, and lives in Seattle with her elderly blue heeler mix, who will still nip at the calves of anyone who dances in her presence, and her young cat. She is a full-time educator and part-time therapist, and is new to writing for publication. She is beginning to tell the small true stories that have created and are still creating who she is.

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