My Total Solar Eclipse Experience, Part I

 
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It was Thursday evening of last week that I went out for a walk through my favourite wooded trail in Grand Rapids. I was going at a pretty nice clip but having to keep an eye on the ground at the path, as there was a lot of overgrowth that I was needed to wade through. I suddenly felt the need to stop and look up- something was calling for my attention. I turned next to me, and there was the most beautiful honeysuckle plant. I thanked it for its beauty and for helping me to stop and appreciate it, and then I kept walking forward, but the feeling didn't stop.

I stopped dead in my tracks, turned around, again, and walked back to the bush. I clearly heard it say, "Take this. It is my gift to you," and my eye went straight to one of the flowers. I was so grateful. I picked it and thanked the plant and was about to go on my way, again, when it said, "No, you get one more," so I picked the next one it brought my eye to, thanked the plant one last time, and went on my way. As I was walking I got the clear feeling that I needed to make a flower essence with it, and the eclipse was only a few days away- it was perfect. I wasn't sure how I would go about making a lot of it with only two flowers, but I knew it would work itself out- I would bring them with me in a jar on the ride to Kentucky. 

Wild camping is not legal in the state of Indiana. That's not what the DNR ranger had told me on the phone when I called the number on their website linking to Hoosier National Forest. "Oh yes," she said. "It's perfectly allowed. You just have to go into the national forest, and if you find a trail that has legal parking spaces by it for your car, you can just park and hike on in. When you find a spot off the trailhead that looks good to camp at, you can camp anywhere, really." I was pleased- no, elated! I asked her many questions related to the camping situation and she answered all of them in a professional and matter-of-fact manner. 

It was perfect. My best friend Chris and I were going to drive down from Michigan to south-central Indiana, camp for two nights in the bottom part of Hoosier National Forest, and then drive the remaining 2 hours to Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to watch the eclipse in totality.

Yea... That's not what happened.

Saturday morning at 9:30am EST, we pulled out of the driveway. According to Google maps, the ride was to take 6 hours. Perfect. Add 4 hours to that, and we were still set to get to our destination a few hours before sunset. But that's not what Mercury, Google maps, or Universe had in mind, though. Google maps took us in circles. Literally. We would drive 9 miles in one direction and then it would tell us to turn around and go the opposite way. 

When we finally pulled into the national forest, it was 9:30pm EST and already pretty much dark. I was filled with so much anxiety and fear about trying to find a place to set up camp in the dark, especially after the multiple dreams that I had been having in the weeks before about copperheads biting me. I love snakes (I even have one for a pet), but for whatever reason this was such a scary idea to me. And I kept trying to stop and tell myself, "Well, if you get bit, that's what's supposed to happen. That's Universe's plan for some grand master reason", but the raw humanness of fear was gripping me, even so.

Everywhere we drove we couldn't find trailheads, and it was getting darker. We finally started stopping to ask people we would randomly see where we could camp in the woods, and everyone we asked said that they had no idea what we were talking about and that it was completely illegal to wild camp, including the DNR woman stationed at the gate in the middle of the forest.

So we ended up finding a public campground and setting up camp in the dark. We had to keep turning our flashlights out to work in the dark because the gnats were so bad. We were both exhausted and covered in sweat from the heat and humidity, and our fire to cook the food would barely start because after the wood had sat outside for less than 5 minutes it was soggy (seriously- that's how humid it was). 

But we did it. We set it all up, and we passed out. And we were so grateful to have a place to sleep, to have been able to have the strange adventure, to have gotten there safely, to have each other, and to be able to laugh about it. And I'll tell you what- those campfire hot dogs were the best hot dogs I've ever had in my life.

The next day we looked up where we had ended up, and the drive to Hopkinsville from where we were was going to be much farther than what we had originally planned, as we had ended up in a completely different part of the forest, which is easy to do in 200,000 acres of land. So we packed everything up again, pulled up Google maps, and found a campground at Lincoln lakes, near the boarder of Western Kentucky, to set up camp. The drive there was beautiful, but when we got there I suddenly had a spell of disappointment: 

We weren't supposed to be in a campground surrounded by people and oversized RV's and manicured woods. We were supposed to be in the middle of the forest, surrounded by too many trees to be able to count and silence interrupted by cicadas and crickets. All I wanted was to be completely secluded; have an opportunity to commune with the woods in our own privacy; to be able to have ritual and strip down and just be at one with nature... completely... without worrying about people playing obnoxious music really late or yelling across the campgrounds at each other or giving us leering looks for being our free selves.

The tears welled up in the corners of my eyes and I felt like I was mourning. Mourning for what our society has become, mourning for the inability to be completely free, mourning for my frustration through my lack of understanding at why this was all happening the way that it was. Little did I know that while I was expressing my sadness, while I was feeling this hurt and anger at not being able to have the space that I felt that I needed to be able to complete my magick the night before the eclipse, the godsend of a creature named Chris was sitting next to me and silently asking Universe for some sort of sign that we were supposed to be where we were. 

After a few minutes, he looked up. "Is that a red raspberry?" he asked, standing up from the bench we were sitting on at our campsite and walking a few feet away towards the bushes. I looked at the leaves and immediately said, "No". "Oh!" he smiled. "It's some sort of flower!" -this piqued my interest. I looked at the flower which seemed to have yellow and orange on it, and when I saw what looked like a bell shape from afar, I immediately felt a certain sense of peace wash over me. "It is a bell?" I asked, excited. "Yes!" he exclaimed. And I smiled and told him it was honeysuckle. And he reached down and held a flower lightly in his hand before smiling at me and saying, "Yes. That's exactly what it is." I hadn't even told him about the jar in the back of the car. We were definitely in the right place. 

...To be Continued. (Find Part II here!)

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