This past Saturday, my husband and son and I packed up and drove over six hours to Jefferson City, Missouri with the express purpose of seeing the total solar eclipse on August 21st. Weeks before, we had ordered our viewing glasses. The city had set aside park land for primitive camping, so we reserved our spot and set out on our journey.
The truth is, I was not really in the mood for the drive, or tent camping in the heat, or my fear of being elbow to elbow with all of the other eclipse chasers who were sure to descend on Jefferson City along with us. In fact, we rolled into our camp area after 10:00 pm, set up the tent and Matt took a moment to apologize to us in advance for taking us on the this crazy caper. We solemnly accepted the apology.
Thankfully, with the morning light, our outlooks improved. After a good (ish) night’s sleep, we found friends, and moved our campsite near them. We then proceeded to have the time of our lives enjoying the eclipse themed festivities around the area and the unforgettable experience of seeing a total eclipse, which I had never seen before.
All in all, I have to say that this weekend turned out to be one of those special times that changes you, and there are some keepsakes I wanted to keep in my memory bank to remind me of the wonderful gifts of our time spent:
- How important it is to be outside, even if the weather is less than ideal. The air in Jefferson City was a tad muggy with a light breeze. We walked slowly, lingering under shadows. Our shirts had icky sweat spots. None of that mattered, though. Cooking outside, camping outside, sleeping outside, hearing a flock of geese fly over in the morning, listening to the wind, being out of doors for days at a time. It sounds uncomfortable. I guess that it is, but being there refreshed us in a way that air conditioning never can. I made a new goal to take my daily yoga and meditation practice outside on my blanket and yoga mat, and not to worry so much if my hair and makeup is askew. I was thinking it might also be nice to install some wind chimes.
- Cook outside and feed people. This is one of my favorite things. We didn’t have individual open fires this trip, but a portable butane camping stove was well-used during this trip. I cooked buttery curried rice, steamed sweet potatoes with broccoli, and warmed buttered tortillas served with sliced avocado. Hungry friends grabbed plates with both hands. Breakfast brought sausage with maple syrup and an encore of the buttered tortillas. Even though the food might be a little weird, making it outside was so much fun.
- Be grateful for the “Leslie Knope’s” of the world. They are out there. Our dear friend Amber, who had arrived before us pointed out that Jefferson City may be a real life “Pawnee” as depicted in the television series Parks and Recreation, and that their mayor, Carrie Tergin is an adorable, and clearly capable, true incarnation of the show’s heroine Leslie Knope. I think Amber hit the nail square on the head with this one, and I was instantly in love with Jeff City. Every single city organization from the Master Garden club to the neighborhood mystics organized themselves to express celebration for the eclipse in their own way. Every group served and hosted us the visitors. They all made it so special. Whether selling ice, slices of watermelon, or organizing access to showers for out of town campers, everyone seemed to have a job they loved.
- Follow beauty. Find it around you, but also don’t be afraid to make it a quest. Make time to chase eclipses, rivers, mountains, waterfalls, migrations, sunny days, and summer thunderstorms. This is where you will find refreshment. Check out this list of gifts for people who follow camping music festivals.
- Choose weird. Attend the gong bath that is going on to welcome the eclipse. Receive prayer by way of sage smoke. Listen to the cos-player dressed as an elf play the didgeridoo.
After two nights tent camping and over 14 hours of driving, and one thoroughly transformative totality experience, though we had arrived exhausted from the sterility of our world, we arrived home more refreshed than we had been in ages.