With the upcoming solar eclipse sensationalized and capitalized upon for tourism’s sake, I recall a solar eclipse experience in the early ‘90s.
The pending partial eclipse was mentioned in the news, but to me, it was another work day. My helper and I headed out from the office to survey. While we positioned range poles and drove stakes, the daylight began to diminish. The eclipse had begun.
We continued working, yet the shadow cast over us created a surreal feeling, as though we were working in an altered reality. Everything –– the truck, our equipment, the trees in the woods, each other –– all looked exactly the same, but it wasn’t. It felt unnatural to be out there working, like maybe we were supposed to be somewhere else. Maybe in a church.
During lunch, my coworker pinholed a piece of cardboard ripped from a cracker box, then placed a second fragment underneath, and we watched the eclipse’s image in silence, forgetting our sandwiches.
Wallowa County offers its own wonders. The things I’ve been able to see in nature, only because I was at the right place at the right time, simply catch my breath.
A couple of months ago in the back country, I discovered an osprey nest with two fledglings. On the next visit, I was glassing these two perched on the edge of the nest, the parents gone. I nearly dropped my binoculars when the mother suddenly appeared in my lens and dropped a six-foot snake dangling lifeless from her claws into the nest. She flew away as quickly as she appeared, and the babies dropped down to eat.
I lowered the binos,
“What did I just see?”
Then raised them again, expecting an instant replay. Nothing.
Last hunting season, while scouting with a friend, we rounded a curve and surprised a golden eagle enjoying a road kill. So engorged with a good meal, he lifted in slow motion about 10 feet off the ground to cross to a safer spot, still within sight of his food.
“What is this place I live in?” I often ask myself.
It seems the idea of science likes to have an answer for everything. And once that was my pursuit as I graduated with an engineering degree: 1+1=2, the area of a circle is ∏r², a square has four equal sides.
Yet this place, the wildness of Wallowa County, cuts through my need to have answers to everything. I am more compliant with surprises, like the eclipse experience and the snake dropping.
Nothing like that can be planned. When I came here, much of my life was built on pretense, that I must know everything. But this place demands that I follow its teachings rather than the other way around. And when I offer the respect that is due, I am gifted with amazing experiences that leave me in awe.
For all these and more, I am grateful.
Katherine Stickroth is a freelance writer who blogs at awallowagal.com.