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Unforgettable Total Eclipse

Updated: Apr 20

I had no idea how profoundly the total eclipse would move me and in speaking with others after the event, I was not the only one. The day prior to the eclipse I had attended a Buddhist mediation circle where we were asked to name something we would like to let go of and place it in the middle of the circle. I suggested that I would like to clear my viewing lens of the many assumptions that I carry around and be able to view the world through a clear window. The old adage of "Be careful what you ask for" comes to mind as the solar eclipse cleared my lens in one fell swoop. Something I thought might be interesting and beautiful turned out to be one of the most soul-stirring moments of my entire life. Brief as it was I can still feel the power and beauty of it in my very cells.


Total eclipse above St Lawrence River
Eclipse above St Lawrence River

Annie Dillard's exceptional writing about natural phenomena alerted me when I read her essay entitled Total Eclipse. I realized that this might be more surreal than I was expecting.


"What you see in a total eclipse is entirely different from what you know...Usually it is a bit of a trick to keep your knowledge from blinding you. But during an eclipse it is easy. What you see is much more convincing than any wild-eyed theory you may know."


This brought to mind Monet's words when he said,


"To see we must forget the names of the things we are looking at."



Anticipating crowds we arrived a few hours early at one of my favorite spots on the planet, a bird sanctuary on a spit of land that juts out into the mighty St Lawrence. I am particularly fond of this part of the river's roar in the Spring! I have made several paintings inspired by this place and brought my watercolors along to sketch and make notes beside the churning waves on this glorious April afternoon!



We sat down on the rocks right beside the flowing water and let the sound of it fill our bodies. I painted, we had a picnic then a nap. We watched kayakers and body surfers shoot through the rapids, birds flew overhead, the sun warmed us, and all the while the river kept singing.



plein-air Sketches of waves by Canadian Landscape painter Holly Friesen

About an hour before totality more and more people started to trickle in until there was a small crowd gathered on the rocks. None of us knew each other but there was an excited buzz in the air as we all kept glancing upward with our groovy eclipse glasses at that golden ball in the sky that we often take for granted. Slowly the fiery disc in the sky was being nibbled away by a dark shape, quite unrecognizable as the moon. I was amazed at how much light & warmth the sun gave off even when it was almost fully covered.


Then everything changed.



The waves took on an eerie silverish color, the sky slowly darkened into an unearthly blue and there were stars. Everything was reflected on the river's surface which only intensified the whole phenomena. There was Jupiter and Venus on either side of a glowing white ring in the sky! The BLUE was indescribable yet palpable as it wrapped itself around me. I could FEEL the color inside my body. Temporal time no longer existed, The individual "me" melted into the whole field of blue as I became the cosmos and was filled with such a huge visceral response that tears started pouring out of my eyes. Words will never describe the experience but Rilke's lines from the Duino Elegies come close,


“For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and it amazes us so, because it serenely disdains to destroy us. Every angel is terrible.”


Canadian landscape painter Holly Friesen painting watercolors on the shores of St Lawrence River in Montreal
painting along the St Lawrence

We were all offered a glimpse into the sublime and then quite suddenly, like a paintbrush moving a watercolor wash across paper, the light swept over the river and returned us to daylight. The unearthly glow of an orange and yellow dawn appeared on the horizon. I could barely speak or function for a few minutes. I felt as I had been gifted with a glimpse of where we go and where we come from before and after this life on earth and it far surpasses our understanding. Nothing is as it seems. I no longer assume to know anything at all.



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Guest
Apr 13

Oh my gosh what a gorgeous stunning interpretation off that once in a lifetime event. Your writing and your painting moved something deep inside me Thank you from my deep inner soul


Sheryl taylor

Sassy Sage Stylist

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Thank-you Sheryl! I appreciate you taking the time to read and look.

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