Category Archives: general

total eclipse of the sun

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Our big summer blockbuster this year happened in the sky overhead. (I desperately want to use the phrase) all the stars aligned and we were able to witness totality about an hour west of the city on a nearly cloudless August afternoon. We sent an invitation out to all the family offering up a place to stay and food to eat and, fingers crossed, a great spot for viewing. The cousins were all back in school, but the grandparents were up for the adventure.

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M and I debated our options for viewing for a few weeks – he had a few construction projects in the line of totality that might offer a place to park and picnic, or we thought we could just drive in the general direction and find a parking lot somewhere to hang out. But a random mention in a conversation on carpools landed us an invite to our friends’ family winery, and the rest is history. We nervously checked the weather forecast all weekend – the chance for clouds and rain kept increasing – but in the end, our spot was perfect. Hot, but perfect.

We arrived early and staked our claim on a picnic table in the shade, and then we set up our chairs for the view. Watching the moon slowly move its way across the sun was far more exciting than I thought it would be. Those glasses really worked! But the real treat was observing the changes as totality inched closer. The temperatures dropped 10-15 degrees, and the cicadas’ chorus began. From our seats we watched the approach of darkness across the valley in front of us and the 360 degree sunset all around us.

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Photographing totality was impossible with my phone, and I didn’t have the correct lens for my nicer camera. But I did think this one shot was cool – you can see the small “sun spot” in the bottom of the shot shows the glowing area where we first started to see Bailey’s Beads. Viewing the corona was really remarkable. Everyone took their glasses off and just stared. It’s something I’ll never forget.

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Reading American Eclipse beforehand was really fun. I still recommend it to everyone I talk to. Even if you only read Chapter 16 on Totality, it’s worth it.

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And we bought these commemorative stamps from USPS for the occasion – plus I bought enough to use on my holiday cards this year. They used heat-activated ink for the first time ever on a stamp, so when you apply heat with you fingertip to the surface of the stamp the full eclipse reveals the surface of the moon before returning back to darkness. Really cool. I’ve framed a set for the gallery wall the girls and I are working on upstairs. 2017 was a summer to remember, for sure.

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small things on a big day, part one

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I have dropped her off at a new school that will shed that newness in a whisper of time. We picked up older friends along the way, their chatter immediately filling the back seat, but my first passenger – by address order and birth order alike – remained silent, listening. They speak a language not yet learned, beyond the Spanish 5 and French 8 scheduled blocks discussion just behind her. I don’t worry, she’s a quick study on most things, bed-making and laundry-sorting aside.

I have twenty minutes to spare before the garden opens. I have planned for this, and treat myself to coffee and a sandwich in the interim. The lot is full as I wait to turn in, several yellow buses pass me before it’s clear. The line is long as well, but I’m not in a hurry. The man ahead of me fiddles with his phone in annoyance, and finally steps up to the counter, placing his order. They begin to make his drink and warm his sandwich, but the payment app on his phone is acting up. He moves towards the door to try and remedy it, but it’s locked up. I step up next to him, and ask him if he’ll let me buy him breakfast. He politely declines, but his frustration seems to fade. “Please, I’d love to,” I ask again. He looks at me and places his phone in his suit pocket and accepts.

“The name for your order?” the cashier asks. “Turan. T-u-r-A-n.” He turns to thank me again, and tells me no one ever gets the A-N right on his name. I’m asked for my name, and I reply “K-r-i-s-t-I-n. No one ever gets the I-N right on mine either.” We smile and move together to wait for our food.

Because it’s busy, we have some time to talk. He thanks me again for breakfast. I tell him that I just dropped my oldest daughter off for her first day of high school, and in those moments since, I’ve wondered how I should mark that milestone. So I say that I’m glad I was behind him in line, and I tell him about the time I came through the drive-thru just after my niece died, and when I pulled up to the window, my bill had already been paid by the person in front of me. My girls were with me – and they still remember it four years later. “And I look forward to the opportunity for me to do the same,” he says. I’ve met a poet.

Except that he’s not a poet, but is dressed in suit and tie for work. Or maybe he is. He leans in closer and tells me that the sight of the school buses this morning gives him hope. “I think this is a good day for your daughter to start high school. Some positivity in this moment, with Charlottesville.” There, he’s done it. He’s extended the conversation that I can’t get out of my head – to me. I nod, and tell him of my internal frustration at wanting the space to acknowledge the small things in the mess of all of these big things.

“Turan.” They call his name, and he picks up his sandwich, turns to me, and smiles. “Small things,” raising his bag slightly towards me, thanking me again without words or guilt or embarrassment. So I drive to the garden to look for the small things there, to say thank you for the gift of this morning already.

bench thoughts

The bench in our bedroom at the foot of our bed is at least fifteen years old. It’s dark (fake) leather, tufted, with a deep storage well. It currently holds all the dress up clothes, castoffs from twenty halloween costumes, party favor hats and funny glasses, several versions of Harry Potter wands, and discarded recital-wear from dancing cousins. Most days it never gets opened, but its presence there is really important as a surface. It holds the extra pillows at night, plus the blanket and the discarded comforter. At some point each evening, one of us stacks the pillows there and folds the blue blanket up in a neat stack, and pulls the comforter onto the bench – clear signals that we’re both headed there soon, if not quite yet.

A few months ago the upholstery started to flake off, and now it’s in full fledged shedding mode. I find these dark brown flecks everywhere, and they annoy me. M thinks we could reupholster it, but I know that will likely be as costly – or even more costly – as a new bench, and I’m really not that keen on the design of this one so much that I want to sink a few hundred dollars into it. It sits really low to the ground, so it’s impossible to vacuum underneath it, but just high enough to host a lot of cobwebs. So I’ve been thinking about an eventual replacement bench, and here are a few I’ve considered:

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The Nelson Bench is a classic that I’d love to own one day. Alas, the price tag is pretty steep, and I can’t see myself finding the time to track down a vintage piece. (Although a quick search locates one in Chicago, so maybe I could call on some blog friends…) We’d lose the storage capacity, but honestly, we have a full height wall of built-in wardrobes right across from here, so storage isn’t really that big of a deal, we’d just need to shift things around a bit.

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I like the walnut finish, but the natural could be nice too. The room is mostly white and very simple. The walnut would nod a bit more to the chifferobe in the bathroom, but the natural finish is really simple and – at least to me – looks more like the classic piece I’ve loved for decades. One benefit of going with the walnut is that it would look great with the Eames Turned Stools that I keep hoping will magically appear on either side of our bed one morning. (I like the shape on the left the best.)

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These are also very pricey, although they would increase in value over time, as would the bench, because they are classic pieces.

I ran over to the mall last Saturday to pick up a necktie that M had ordered, and I decided to pop into West Elm just a few stores down. They are currently running a 30% sale on some of their furniture, and I noticed this bench at the foot one of their beds in the showroom. It very closely matches the piece in the bathroom, which got me thinking more about tying the two rooms together.

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I like the idea of a lower shelf that could hold a few items like books, or an extra blanket, and it was helpful seeing the bench against a bed / bedding just like ours. I’m just not sure I want something too fussy there, so I’m not completely sold on this one.

We could also go really simple here, which could be a nice idea. My worry is going too rustic, although the lines of this Blu Dot bench below are nice. (It’s called the Amicable Split, which might not be the best name for a bench at the foot of our bed.)

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And there’s always the option of doing an updated version of what we have now – something upholstered in a neutral fabric, with storage space and a comfortable, tufted top.

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There are lots of options with or without storage with this kind of look. It looks comfortable and practical, and would certainly be a safe choice.

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But in my predictable fashion, I need to mull things over a bit more. I feel like the last bench was a practical, safe choice for over fifteen years. As we’re moving through the house with an eye to finishing out, purging, buttoning up, and finessing our design choices, the classics are the most appealing to me – even if I have to wait them out a bit more or hunt them down.

I’ll post some photos of the room soon – we’re hoping to install historic replacement windows in there soon, and then will repaint and freshen things up.