Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Forest Knolls Free Store

The oddest things trigger memory. Proust was right. An advert for a reading & book party for Peter Coyote, a note on the Diggers triggered an avalanche of memory...with no purpose or storyline. A fragment, at best.

In the late 1960s, a friend of my mother's, Lynn Dutra, who was a landed/flighted Haight-Ashbury Digger, who started the Free Store in Forest Knolls, at the top of Resaca Ave; or was it Rosario? There really wasn't a store, just fleamarket stuff stored in boxes under his house. Not even a basement, but a crawl space under the open scaffolding of the summer cottage. So it was a store in name only.

Despite his girlish name, Lynn was anything but—he was one of these big burly brawny Viking types, reminded me of Ebbe Borregaard and was a very cool cat. I used to ride up the hill on horseback, he'd invite me to crawl around in the boxes of junk in the basement.

I still have treasures gleaned from his basement store. An etched sterling comb case and tortoise shell comp. Alas, I didn't realize this was the real deal and destroyed the tortoise shell comb. I've no idea where it's from, but it looks like an English pastoral scene on the cover of the comb. I don't remember what else I got from the Free Store, but I thought the comb was absolutely marvelous.

I remember being puzzled by the notion of Free Store, but the Bolinas Free Box (sometimes there's another one in Point Reyes) are permutation of the Free Store. I like to think that Freecycle too is a modern permutation as well.





Saturday, July 25, 2009

Scanning slides


I've been wringing bell curves past midnight while scanning with a retro Nikon SCSI slide scanner with archaic software, in Mac OS 9, no less. How very retro, but then, so are the slides. Mama didn't take my 30 year old Kodakchrome away, but time itself is eroding them. Especially blue-tinged Echtachrome. Time has not been kind to it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Partial Eclipse, 7/21/2009


At 6:45 PM, I had an impromptu eclipse date with the sun and moon. I'd forgotten all about it until a friend posted something about the eclipse on Facebook. I dropped everything and made a mad dash for the door. But we were not in the path of totality. My Mylar eclipse glasses from the Hawaiian total eclipse on July 11, 1991, were up in Forestville, I was completely unprepared to view this partial eclipse, what would work? I could think of nothing, other than some old Mylar hard drive bags. Bingo! I dragged a box of computer parts from the morgue, left a constellation of old hard drives and memory cards scattered all over the bed, trying to find a good Mylar bag. I was running out of time. 

I ran out in the street and viewed the sun through the old Mylar hard drive bags, looking like some street loonie. Passersby stared, but I didn't care. However, the fog bank kept thrusting its tongue out. I was determined; something about seeing eclipses changes how you think. So I drove up the hill to the next clear spot in the road unhampered by high rises.

The Mylar bags worked, but were less successful, they were too thin, I couldn't see through multiple layers and the one really dense Mylar bag was too warped or full of minute holes for true viewing pleasure. But I had all kinds of eclipse viewing tricks up my sleeve leftover from childhood. I ripped the cover off a paperback book and punched a hole in it with a ballpoint pen. The pinhole camera idea wasn't working out, nor were the tree leaves cooperating. The sun was too low on the horizon to cast myriad eclipses on the ground through tree leaves. 


* * *

It's a little known fact that trees cast myriad images of the sun on the ground. All those funny little circles of light are really projections of suns. Trees make natural pinhole cameras. During an eclipse, the ground beneath the trees is covered with hundreds of eclipse shadows. You just have to know where to look. A piece of white cardboard helps put it into focus. Oak trees work best. How very druidic. Must be something about the negative spaces created by oval leaf shape of oaks as pine needles are too thin. 

I discovered the pinhole camera effect by accident Feb. 26, 1979, when I was pinning something up on the kitchen wall, I was living in Cotati with Sweet Old Bob, but that's another eclipsed story. 

I was admiring some shadows cast on the wall by a rockrose succulent I had hanging out the kitchen window, they looked very Japanese sumi-e, but there were funny little moving crescents on the wall. WTF? Ants? Small spiders? I went to get my camera to document the strange moving shadows, and then I realized the light outside was strange...it was far too dark for noon, no clouds in the clear blue sky. Hmmm. 

Then it dawned on me: it  was a total eclipse of the sun, I had no idea...my rockrose informed me. Too afraid to look directly at the sun, as we were not quite in the path of totality (Washington to Greenland), I don't remember seeing Bailey's beads, nor the diamond ring, just a slivers of light, like the half moons on my fingernails.

Wherever the rockrose needles intersected each other, they made a natural pinhole camera with myriad "lenses." I madly took photos of eclipse shadows. I made pinhole cameras, used my hands to cast eclipse shadows, I was clean mad with the joy of discovery. Even the eucalyptus tree was celebrating the eclipse....there were eclipse crescents everywhere on the ground. 

Surely this phenomenon had been discovered before, but by whom? Lost in the mists of time. I was a modern day  Sor Juana de la Crúz experimenting with light and shadow. I  was totally in the zone—jazzed by the adrenaline rush of discovery and excitement....but I was home alone, no one to share it with. 

* * *

Chasing the setting sun, I parked the car at the top of MacArthur and Adams Point, darkened the car with my car shades and got innovative, asking "what if..." I set some reading glasses in a beam of light on the dashboard and got little twin eclipses projected onto the car door, but then, too soon, they disappeared. 

I tried using double sunglasses to view the sun as it hid behind a cloud bank, and marveled over the rainbow colors I could see through the polarized lenses, and then it came to me in a flash: I thought, what if I have the wrong day, what if there's no eclipse and I'm looking straight into the sun's corona like a mad dog? Will I go blind due to some cosmic joke? 

I drove home disgruntled, thinking my experiment had failed, only to find I'd caught the ratass end, not the beginning of the eclipse. Then I found out that it began at 6:15, not 7:15. Where did I get that info from? Probably from somebody living on Mountain Time.

But I was pretty chuffed over resorting to reading glasses trick—you know how you can sometimes see rainbow hued suns on the ripples of a lake or on the beveled edge of a rearview mirror? That's what gave me the idea. That, and the crystal heart dangling from the rear view mirror. Association by degree. To use the reading glasses as a projector telescope. Focus was easy, about 2 feel from the door, once I lined the glasses up to the sun. 

I experimented with tilting the lenses, etc., and I was able to make surreal 3-D parallax suns, reminding me that the eclipse image I was seeing was really projecting upside down. Just like when you take a magnifying glass and hold it away from you and everything turns upside down. Add another magnifying glass in front of it, and you can set the world right again. Sometimes I do that trick with kids to blow their minds. That, and using old CDs to throw rainbows across a crowded room.

* * *

It's a little known fact that we actually see the world upside down. Which explains a lot. Our brain processes what we see and sets it right side up. Light bounces off the retina, and crosses paths entering the optic nerve for the brain to decode it. Pretty cool stuff.

So, I was feeling a bit like the unschooled Dutch scientist Antony van Leeuwenkoek (1632-1723), who felt that the best teacher was an open mind uncluttered by scientific dogma. Well, I had that. He valued curiosity, and said to observe, observe, observe, and then experiment—and so I did. 

Son of a brewer and a basketmaker, Van Leeuwenhoek was a highly unlikely candidate for scientist.  Friend of Vermeer, he was attracted to light, he also as a lens grinder and maker of spectacles (lately so relevant in my life), which led to his invention of the microscope: a lens and a pinhole of light. A focal plane. Much like the inner workings of the Nikon camera lens aperture I held in my hand. That, and Gallileo's telescope. 

Unfortunately the photos I took were post eclipse phenomena, I was too distracted by technical difficulties, only able to eke out 2 photos due to dead batteries, but it does illustrate my point, albeit a Khruschev's shoe photo—after the fact.


I marveled at the rainbow fringe cast around the edges of the sun images and was reminded of another lensmaker, an English contemporary of van Leeuwenhoek's who noticed rainbows cast on the edges of a ground lens he was working on in a darkened room. 

This observation led to Sir Isaac Newton's (1643-1727) famous 1704 magnum opus, Opticks: a Treatise on the Reflexions and the Refractions and Inflexions and Colours of Light, and the discovery of the color spectrum revolutionized the work of poets and artists. Suddenly paintings were full of prismatic color and poets harnessed the metaphor of rainbow.

* * *

Reflection, absorption, transmission, wavelength. I tried an experiment with two pairs of reading glasses and discovered that two lenses cancelled each other out and dimmed the image of the sun. But then I had four eclipses projected on the wall!

Sitting in my darkened car, I felt like I was inside the Camera Obscura at the Cliff House in San Francisco watching twinned projected suns on the doors of my car. It worked really well, you could even see the layers of cloud bank in front of the sun. 

* * *

Forgive me Antony van Leeuwenhoek for standing on your gravestone. I meant no disrespect. Coming in from the bright sun into the dimly lit church at Delft, I was purblind. I looked for you in vain, until my friend Vins said, "you're standing right on top of him!" With your lenses you gave us entrance to a cognate miniature worlds of animalcules—inner constellations of foramifera and spirogyra held in a single drop of lake water. And camera lenses. Our world has never been the same, wee beasties, and all.


I'm still seeing sun spots before my eyes.



PS I found the time error, from a forwarded email from Antonia Lamb, who gave lots of astrological implications as a gateway to great power, but listed the eclipse at 7:30 PM. Always double check the facts, ma'am.

Party of One


Wild Oats                     ©Maureen Hurley

During the 1980s and '90s, I used to live next door, well, a few cabins up, from many blues musicians at Celli's Cabins in Forestville, on the Russian River. The rustic cabins were originally weekend summer rentals, later they were workers' cabins. Then, they became an artist enclave. I was fortunate to have lived there for 20 years among many noted musicians.


What great impromtu BBQs we had at the cabins in various configurations: we were all living in and out of each other's pockets, er, cabins—they were so tiny, you had to go out into the driveway to change your mind. In Cabin Number One, there was Alastair Ingram, saxophonist, and flyfisher, born in Dundee, Scotland, but raised in Wisconsin. His band, Blue Moon, still rises in the sky at night, blue notes and all.

And across from Alastair, in Cabin #10, there was Sonny Lowe, Chicago-style bluesman, one fab mouth harpist (and a right good a good kisser). We always loved to boogie when Sonny Lowe and the Blenders were jammin' at Jasper O'Farrell's. 


Once dubbed the "highest jumpin' white man in the US," before an injury put an end to his hopes of breaking the world high jump record and a shot at the Olympics, that long, tall cool drink of water, AKA Max "Sonny" Lowe, who could jump 7' 2" from a standstill, picked up a harmonica and he never looked back. That man had soul. And he walked with a springboard gizmo in his shoes.

Sonny was also a shade tree mechanic adept at fixing cars. He was the only man who could keep my '81 blue Mitsubishi truck, codenamed Lazarus, running. He had the magic hands. I'd sidle on up to Sonny and say, "Come look under mah hood," ala Sonny Terry and Brownie MacGhee whenever I needed a tune-up or my carburators rebuilt. He'd laugh and say, "Yes ma'am!" and always undercharged me for the work, as I babysat his son Nathan for free. 


We were all cash-strapped. (Some things never change.) Sonny preferred Peach Schnaps to money as a tip. Said it soothed his voice. To this day, the odor of peaches reminds me of him.

Sometimes Sonny's friend Charlie Musselwhite would pull up in his white van. Charlie lived in the town of Sonoma. For a while, I was Nathan's babysitter and odd mother-figure of sorts. I loved helping to raise that kid. He brought out the child in me. We were inseparable. It was love at first sight. 


Sometimes Nathan called me "Dad" even when his own dad was standing there next to him. We'd all laugh and Sonny would look down at his feet and get all uncomfortable. He knew what the kid wanted. Nathan's mother, Cindy, who was trying to straighten herself out after a half-life of heavy partying, and drugs, wanted it too—if only for Nathan's sake. But it was not to be. I regret that life not lived.

Sonny taught me the root meaning of the blues, it took me a long time to recover from that kind of class act. Living next to Sonny fostered a lot of writing on my part—some of it was decent. Most of it, not. 


Even writing about this blogpost makes me squirmy like I was doin' sumptin' wrong. But sometimes I can't help myself. The pieces just write themselves into a corner or wander where they will down a long open road—while I'm unsuccessfully holding onto some sort of a through-thread for dear life.


Ain't nobody that can croon and play that harp and tongue those bent notes like Sonny, except maybe, Charlie Musselwhite, or Norton Buffalo (rest his soul.) Norton lived in Sonoma too, then moved up to Paradise. Then he went to the other paradise. To this day, I can't listen to the lonesome wail of an harmonica without thinking of Norton or Sonny.

On an impulse, Charlie gave Sonny his big white gig van, packed full of stuff destined for Goodwill, and that gig van doubled an extra spare bedroom for various visiting folks. We had a great time unpacking that treasure trove of a van stuffed with antique furniture, musical instruments, clothes, and two dark tabby kittens. I used to wear one of Georgina's vintage black dresses at many of my poetry readings. It brought me luck.

 Celli's Cabins                           ©Maureen Hurley

Evan Morgan lived in Cabin #2. Evan's an acoustic guitarist, ukelele and mandolin picker of New Riders of the Purple Sage fame. Evan's NRPS bandmates and many other musicians rarely came to visit... mainly because Evan was usually on the road with them. He'd come back full of stories. When Evan played bluegrass and Celtic music—whether on his Martin, mandolin or on a fiddle, he was at his finest. I couldn't get enough of that music. 

At the time, Evan was touring with Lost Highway Band (not the movie), but Forestville was his base camp. I remember the buzz going round the cabins when Evan auditioned for NRPS. I'm sure we all celebrated that night. Not that I was a NRPS fan, but I proudly displayed a NRPS sticker on my rear truck window for Evan's sake. 

We saw a whole lot less of Evan when he hooked up with a French blonde welfare mom who was the daughter of a friend of mine. With a cheshire cat smile, she devoured him from the rooster up. It ran in the family. He no sooner looked, then he loved, and when he loved, it was an all-consuming once in a lifetime kind of love. Now, Evan was right fine to look at, but he just sort of wasted away when he found out she was lip-synching band members while he was on the road.

Evan and Sonny shared Charlie Musselwhite's two cats, brother tabbys, Hucky and Mucky. Hucky—short for Huckleberry—who was more dog, than cat, was a people cat. He was smarter than his brother, he could open doors, and deduce things, but Mucky, a recluse by nature, was more interested in sucking his own balls than cozying up to folks. Neutering put a stop to that vice. Couldn't suggest that option to Evan. But it might have saved him some grief. Some things just need to play themselves out. 

Hucky decided Evan wasn't around much and one day he went out to Mirabel Road to find him (he recognized all our cars when we pulled up the driveway) but he thumbed a ride with death instead. Maybe someone drove by in a car that sounded like Evan's. Maybe Hucky was terminally lonesome. Or maybe he just committed suicide. It wasn't like him to go out onto the highway. We all mourned that cat. Mucky was devastated without his brother. It was about that time that he became more people friendly.

Former NRPS band member, Grateful Dead drummer, Micky Hart, lived across the way from us, off Mirable Road, so there were infinite musical party permutations possible on any given night. I don't recall ever meeting the NRPS guy whose death spawned this particular piece of memoir, Marmaduke, aka John Dawson, but I was pretty oblivious to names, so anything was possible. 


 The road across the way         ©Maureen Hurley

I never officially went over to Micky Hart's place across the way, I was too shy, but I did stand outside in his driveway to listen when most of the remaining Grateful Dead showed up one night to play. But it was cold standing there in the dark alone, so I went home. Alone.

Come to think of it, the Grateful Dead and NRPS connection, is probably why one member of It's a Beautiful Day, David LaFlamme of White Bird fame, was living on the River, working at the Guerneville gas pump. There's not many who can clam to have David LaFlamme—a world class violin virtuoso—pump gas into their car. His infinitely sad eyes were as blue as my VW Bug, and his hair, white blond as sunlight on the river. 


I should have just given Evan my dad's indigo blue Jaguar coupe way back then when he asked for it, when it was still running, now the carbs are frozen up and the wirings shot—but I was too unresolved and conflicted over my dad's death. Now it sits abandoned in the driveway, reduced to rust by the elements, junkyard bound in the slow lane.


Across the creek from me, ceramicist-musician Joel Bennett played salsa chord progression riffs on a not-so-baby grand piano that dominated the living room like a shiny volcano. On weekends, with artists and art lovers dropping in for Open Studio, it was like Little Havana at Joel's joint.

Italian pine   ©Maureen Hurley

In Cabin #7 there was Paul Ellis, painter and a regular Jeckyl & Hyde fiddler-classical violinist. Paul could change from classical pieces to bluegrass at the drop of a hat. Sometimes even in the middle of the same tune. He had a running classical chamber duo gig with Ron Jones and/or Don Coffin at local restaurants on Sunday afternoons, but Paul could break out into some serious barnstorming fiddling come Friday night. AKA Redwood String Trio, The Hot Frittatas, etc. (Pix of Paul & Don at the Kate Wolf Festival).

Paul painted a lovely canvas of my cabin, with all its cow skulls and art accretions, the Shasta daisies out front were in full tilt. (A pdf that mentions Paul & Kate Wolf). His friend, Don Coffin (Kate Wolf's ex-husband), who drove a vintage green caddie convertible, often came to visit. That's how I met Don, he came cruising up in this drop-dead gorgeous car and I ran out to see what all the fuss was about. 

I later realized I'd met Don years earlier when he was living in Sebastopol, so it was a reunion of sorts. Kate and Don had long since split up. I remember all of us going over to his house after a poetry reading and playing music into the wee hours, the potbelly stove belching smoke. Paul was probably there too. It was a small world.

And in the other cabins, lived various itinerant cabinmates—Cabin #4 got a real workout. George rented it for a while, then an ex-boyfriend, Jim Byrd moved some of his furniture in, but stayed with me. It mostly stood empty for ages. The last tenant was Steve DuBois, a fine drummer, who was my good buddy. Weekends, Steve played for Tommy Castro, at The Saloon in North Beach. (See Steve with The Doorslammers Johnny Nitro Salute). Sometimes I'd drive into the city to hear them play, but I was partial to Sonny's blues style. And the city was more than a long ways from Forestville.

Cabin 6                                      ©Maureen Hurley

Another shortlived cabin-mate (Cabin #6) was an official Marboro Man, Bill Dutra, who was a friend of Leonard Matlovich's, of Time Magazine fame. Ironically, Bill didn't smoke at all, but KS ravaged his beautiful sculpted face. Ironic also, that the iconic face of the manly man of the American West was a gay roving blade. 

A decorated Vietnam war veteran who served three tours of duty and awarded a Purple Heart, Leonard Matlovich made the cover of Time Magazine in 1975 when he broke cover and "came out" while serving in the Air Force. 

Come to think of it, Bill Dutra was probably plastered on the back cover of that same Time Magazine, riding a horse into the Marlboro country sunset, a filtered ciggie dangling from his lips.


Bill told me Leonard who was buried in the same row as J. Edgar Hoover—was poetic justice. His tombstone reads: “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.” Bill told me a funny story about "Jedgar's" penchant for cross-dressing like a girl and how the FBI had to scramble to cover it up from the press.

Steve the banjo player m
oved into Cabin #2 when Evan left. I can't remember his last name. Maybe Wharton? Starts with a hwa-hwa sound. But I can remember the names of all his cats. Rounder used to bring us fresh kill. Nothing quite like finding crunchy little gopher feet on your doorstep in the morning—with your bare feet, Steve playing "Cripple Creek" in the distance.

Then there's New Englander, Rob Harrison who moved into Bill's cabin (#6) after he died. Rob worked with Sonny as a counselor at halfway homes. He carried on ordinary conversation at 80 decibels. No need for a phone, you could hear Rob clear in the next county. Rob was from Woodstock. Must have been from listening to all that good music up close and personal.

The orchard                              ©Maureen Hurley

In Cabin #9 was Persian rug restorer and emphysemic storyteller George Howell, George was one of the original dharma bums who really lived a legendary life of Dharma Bums fame, having 'balled' Janis Joplin in the back seat of Jack Kerouac's car as it made that famous cross-country run in the late 1950s—I can't remember his Beat name in the book. Gary Snyder's name in the book was Japhy Ryder. 

Violet-eyed George, with the beard of a wild Armenian, who also happened to be half-Armenian, stood well over six feet, was overfond of Robitussen and speed in his youth, and so, was near toothless. He wheezed like a Wurlitzer when we washed hand woven antique Persian rugs—worth more than all our collective incomes—in the orchard. Wildness ran in the family. In Hana, stories still circulate about George's Welsh haole uncle, Dr. Howell who had a thirst as prodigious as that of Dylan Thomas. When I was in Hana, Dr. Howell was fondly remembered. 

I dragged a few musicians home from time to time. After a private party at The Top of the Mark in SF—I was a flower girl in medieval costume heralding the way for Scottish bagpiper, Peter Kapp—we held a moonlit ceili right in the driveway, with Peter piping and skirling and everyone dancing up and down the driveway until we were breathless and covered in dust.

Then there was the Love Choir's unstrung guitar hero Trygve Tryggestad, an old high school flame who could play the guitar like he was at the crossroads with the devil himself. But he had a regular woman stashed somewhere in the woodwork, I wasn't into playing second fiddle—and that was that. Another life I regret not having lived.

 River Road, flood                     ©Maureen Hurley

On hot summer nights, the crickets seethed, a chorus of mosquitoes hummed in unison, liquor freely flowed, two kinds of smoke rose, and George made a wicked raita & a baba ghanoosh to die for. Ah, yes, those were the days...in Celli's Cabins, in Forestville, by the river, the wild moon rising over the orchard. 

There was not much need to go into town to hear live music. We had it all at Celli's Cabins. Except for when Sonny and the boys were blending tasty treats up at Jasper O'Farrell's Pub. Besides, the dance floor at Jasper's was better than groovin' alone in the gravel driveway as the boys were all playing music. 


Party of one? 


I had to leave Forestville in order to get a life. But I miss those good old days, never realizing how good we really had it. We all moved on, got married, shacked up, settled down. End of an era.

Sometimes, I still dream of Sonny crooning the classic, Yes Miss Bessie, You Sure Got a Good BBQ! in a smoky voice that planted the blues deep down into my soul. And I wonder about Nathan, of course, that almost-child of mine by mutual adoption. Did he grow up to be a musician following his daddy's footprints? Or did he become an artist like me? This child I never had.

Forestville                                ©Maureen Hurley
When I began this piece, there was nothing on the internet about Bill Dutra as the Marlboro Man, but a cousin forwarded this link for The Marlboro Cowboy, March 2009.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Man on the Moon


Cinco de Mayo supermoon 2012 © Maureen Hurley

The day Man landed on the moon, I was a salad girl, eight months into my first job at the Rancho Nicasio in West Marin, Northern California. Glen Kirchner, the owner-cook, a hard taskmaster, popped his head into the salad closet and said, "Get yourself out to the bar right now. This is historic." 

I wiped salad dressing on my butcher apron and joined the waitresses and cooks, ranchers, and afternoon bar patrons perched on barstools to watch the moon landing from a TV nestled among moose heads and cobwebbed deer racks.

I will never forget when Armstrong said, "Houston, The Eagle has landed." And how, at Aldrin's request, we all paused to consider the heavens, bow our heads and give thanks. That afternoon, the dingy, dark bar became an altar of light to the gods as unbeknownst to us, Aldrin received communion on the moon.

First Moon Man Neil Armstrong's famous words still reverberate, "One small step for Man, one giant leap for mankind," as he and Buzz Aldrin stepped off the ladder and fell to moon in slo-mo to become the first moonwalkers. A pufft of dust, their bootprints, indelibly etched in time as Aldrin kangarood like a boy. The flag, stood stiffly at attention like a taffeta gown, Nixon's voice droned like tired bees.





Was it a color TV? I don't think so. But the afterimage of the flag was like a splash of dragon blood against the darkness of space.


FIrst Moon Landing 1969

As the afternoon stretched into infinity, we all felt like heroes. Kennedy's dream had been fulfilled. But the moon herself had also been defaced by Man.

One of my grandmother's favorite sayings was: "You've no more sense than the Man in the Moon," and here I was looking at men on the moon. One small step had irrevocably altered our perception of ourselves in the scope of the universe.


The third astronaut who manned the spaceship, Michael Collins, my cousin's namesake, never set foot on the face of the moon.

I later met one of the NASA engineers who described the absolute suspense when the lunar transmission was delayed. He said that during the landing that very nearly went wrong, everyone held their breath until they turned blue. A
nd the absolute pandemonium that broke out when the data finally came through. The engineer handed me a piece of gray volcanic rock. It was the moon. The moon.

I have held a piece of the broken moon in my hands. One of the Apollo 11 test cones is on the deck of the mothballed USS Hornet, with a display replete with moonrocks, Eagle insignia patches and photos of earthrise. It still takes my breath away.

Astronaut William Anders took the Earthrise photo in 1968. Stee sory here.


A version of this was published as a comment in commemoration of Apollo 11's 40th anniversary, on
NewScientist, July 9, 2009

Note Bene 25 August 2012
RIP Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong, 1st man on the moon, dies at 82



 July 21, 1969: The Chronicle’s front page from 47 years ago covers the Apollo 11 moon landing🌕 by American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. "Two men and a spaceship began to rewrite the science of the solar system last night," The Chronicle's current science editor, David Perlman, wrote from NASA headquarters. “Within minutes of their landing on the moon, in an exploration televised for all of Earth to watch, they found unexpected rocks, collected uncontaminated nuclear particles from the sun, and examined craters of curious shapes and sizes."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

ON ACHIEVING TOTALITY



The last total eclipse I witnessed
was July 11, 1991, on the Big Island,
in the City of Refuge, from the heiau
of Pu`uhonua o Honaunau.

It was devastatingly awesome
that morning, a total eclipse of the sun.
People cheered, wept, hugged strangers,
got married on the beach in feather cloaks,
took another toke, and passed it on.

It was either a day of bad omens
or for unbelievably good luck. Twice blessed.
Who could choose? Totality had been achieved.
The sun turned into a diamond ring
in a double dawn dressed in adamantine skies.

In Keoneʻele Cove, where Hawai'ian royalty bathed—
to swim there was a crime, punishable by death—
I drifted with green sea turtles the size of boogieboards.
In a restless sea rising to the gravitational pull
of both sun and moon harnessed in unison,
a second darkness descended like an obsidian knife,
the dawn birds and fish all fell back to sleep.

Like clouds of bright fallen leaves at my feet,
schools of manini—striped convict tang—
caught red-handed in suspended animation,
were imprisoned by tide out of time.

The day before, I saw molten lava plunge into the sea,
and I stepped on newly minted earth.
My hiking boots melted, the surf belched acid rain,
but red-hot lava exploding in the waves
& the sun turn into a dark eye in a morning sky
were both equally an experience of a lifetime.

Between both days, I could not choose one,
I was a Solomon divided between two mothers.
My eyes had been twice burned by the birth of beauty.
And that vision had made me sandblind to the ordinary.
The apogee of my understanding of beauty, obsolete.