The Weekly Gardener 1

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Total Eclipse of the Sun

Rare Events

Yellow Rose

You'd think the week of the eclipse would feature at least a grainy picture of it, but sadly my photo expertise leaves much to be desired. Anyway, just imagine there is an eclipse picture here, if you will, while I talk about it.

Like so many people, I too stared at the sun for a couple of hours, to watch it turn from a ball of fire into a thin crescent of light. We were not in the total eclipse zone and because of that, sunlight shone through the entire time. I could only see the moon's shadow through special glasses, but the day did turn darker and colder in the process.

Total solar eclipses are not rare occurrences, if you are willing to chase them around the globe, but if you're staying put, you aren't likely to experience too many of them in a lifetime. That made it worth wasting a couple of hours, and so I did.

The next eclipse is scheduled to occur in seven years, and it will be a total solar eclipse in our area; I'm already marking my calendar. Seven years: that's seven generations for an annual plant, a reasonable length of time for a person's life, and nothing at all in the grand scheme of things. Just a reminder that time is not much of a common denominator for the whole of existence.

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When Nature Was Quiet

Cleome

Maybe this celestial event seemed over-hyped to people, but every other living think paid it undivided attention. At the peak of the eclipse everything turned unnaturally still. There was no rustling in the leaves, no scurrying on the ground, no sound in the air. Not even the wind.

I experienced my little world grow very quiet as the light dimmed and the air cooled, and because I didn't know I was supposed to expect this phenomenon, I felt compelled to pay attention to all of its details.

It is hard to describe the natural cues, so obvious to wildlife, that happen all around us, the subtle changes in the immediate surroundings that make the muscles tighten, the breath quicken and the skin get goosebumps, but all those silent cues conveyed an undeniable behest: be very very still.

People will argue that the advances of civilization made these gut reactions obsolete, that one doesn't need to rely on instinct when there are so many ways to measure and predict natural events, but I can't help be humbled by the fact that the birds and the squirrels know better than me when it comes to keeping themselves out of danger.