I pored over Oregon maps and regional descriptions and even used Google Street View to remotely scope southeastern views. A number of radio snippets about the upcoming solar eclipse had me convinced I must make the 10-hour drive north to the path of totality. We planned a short backpacking trip in the Willamette National Forest to view the eclipse from a high point in an area that burned 14 years ago, offering solitude and expansive views in a unique landscape. However, the Santiam Highway that led us there was choked with smoke from a fire near Sisters. We backtracked west with anxieties of a fouled plan and the possibility of opaque skies looming on our minds.
The next morning, we drove up and down Santiam Highway looking for spots with a clear view. The sky was blue and the smoke hung to the east. We eventually ended up in a small meadow full of blooming aster, yarrow, and fireweed, just off the road near Tombstone Pass. There were four or five groups of people scattered in the meadow. When we passed into totality, hoots and hollers rang out, tears streaming down cheeks.
I set my camera settings before totality, and for good reason. I'm surprised I was able to point the camera to the sky. I felt in shock, unable to look away from that black glowing orb. I'll never forget the oddness of seeing the sun blotted out. I had an overwhelming feeling something was wrong, yet the beauty took my breath away.
On that day, millions of people took some time to look up at the sky, to experience one of the many extraordinary wonders of being alive on this planet. That, in and of itself, is heartening. This unique celestial experience provoked my reflection on our place in the cosmos, about all that has happened to create life, as we know it, on this little blue speck.