The Eclipse

solar eclipse lens flare picture
A photo capturing a tiny, crescent-shaped reflection of the August 21, 2017 eclipse.

On Monday morning, my coworkers and I filed out to the top story of our parking lot to watch the eclipse. My boss had made one of those pinhole projectors with a paper plate, and we stood around the wall, squinting to see the tiny crescent on the painted cement. Eventually, some other people from our building took pity on us and offered their eclipse glasses, and I risked my iPhone camera to snap a few pictures, capturing the eclipse via a lens flare.

How is it that we happen to live on a planet where this can happen? There has to be a certain distance between us and the moon and between the moon and the Sun in order for a total eclipse to be possible. So we’re lucky. But already, the moon is getting farther and farther away. If the human race continues to exist for 600 million years, our descendants won’t get to see what we saw in the USA on August 21. Like everything else, total eclipses are temporary.

Also temporary and (let’s be real) magical was the way people just…forgot about everything. Instead of giving our attention to bombast and manmade beauty, we devoted ourselves to this quiet movement in the sky. As Annie Dillard said in her essay “Total Eclipse”, “It was odd that such a well advertised public event should have no starting gun, no overture, no introductory speaker.” Instead, it started with a hush, and continued with a hush, and ended with awe.

Sure, I almost immediately began to see politics-related eclipse tweets and pictures of our Commander-in-Chief squinting directly into the sun, but for a second, we remembered that we’re tiny and made of stardust and have no control over so many things. And it felt…nice. Standing in the heightened shadows, which threw the normally hazy LA landscape into sharp relief, there was no pressure to satisfy anyone’s expectations, including my own. I felt like existing was enough.

As we all looked at the pictures on my iPhone later, my coworker was overcome. He smiled and said, “It definitely makes it seem like there’s someone out there, screwing with us.” Or, I added silently, someone wanting to give us a moment of quiet.

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Freedom! or, the benefits of doing something without understanding why

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This last week has brought me three anniversaries.

The first was the one year anniversary of my move to Los Angeles.

The second was my one year anniversary at my job, which I started the day after my Honda Civic crawled down the highway (I’ll never say freeway) into what is a desert city but likes to try covering itself with lawns and shrubs anyway.

And the third anniversary? My birthday.

Needless to say, this was the perfect recipe for a week of reflecting on the state of things. I’ve gone through the tired but true revelations about how quickly time passes and how important it is to spend time with the people I love. And I’ve also thought about how important it is to keep your eyes open and let things happen without fighting it.

This last thought holds especially true for this past year. Sometimes, it seems like Los Angeles found me instead of the other way around. I remember being set on moving to New York City. Los Angeles hadn’t even crossed my mind. Then, I stumbled upon a New York Times article about how rent in LA was just the tiniest bit cheaper than in New York. I was intrigued, but I didn’t think much of it. But soon after that, my dad asked me if I’d ever considered living in LA, since I had an uncle out in Torrance but no family out east. And then I picked up a book by one of my favorite authors (Maggie Stiefvater), and it just happened to be set in LA. And then I got invited to visit the city by one of my closest friends from high school. My head was suddenly full of LA, LA, LA.

Five months later, I was living and working in the City of Angels. I can’t say there was ever a moment when I thought, “I belong here!” As I’ve told the people who’ve asked why I came out here, I just liked it. There’s no profound reason behind what I did.

Despite how simple I wanted it to be, making a move like this is a risk. Some things worked out (I tried online dating!) and some didn’t (roommate problems). I started acting again for the first time since high school, and I met a lot of new friends in some of the most random circumstances (e.g., commiserating over back problems at the chiropractor). I met some goals (finishing draft one of a book) and didn’t meet others (only halfway through the second draft). But on the night of my birthday, I watched the band Chvrches perform the album that was the soundtrack to my cross-country drive one year ago. In that moment, in a chill crowd of music-lovers, I was so happy to be here. Trusting my gut, no matter how unfocused it seemed, has left me with no regrets. And as you’re looking at a new year ahead, that’s the best feeling in the world.