As everyone undoubtedly knows, there was a solar eclipse yesterday. Idaho was fortunate to be in its path, the band of totality beginning about an hour north of Boise, where I live, and ending less than two hours north — a mere fifteen minutes south of my wife’s family’s cabin in McCall, where me and my family regularly visit. We decided to make a go of it.
We headed to McCall on Friday, and started plotting possible viewing locations over the weekend. On Sunday, my step-father-inlaw and I drove south from McCall to scout possible viewing locations, eventually deciding on a “plan A,” “B,” and “C,” depending on how things looked and panned out. Idaho was expecting huge crowds, and it was difficult to predict how crowded each location might be.
On Monday, we got up early, ate breakfast quickly, packed up two vehicles with mountains of gear, and headed south, trying to beat the traffic to our preferred, “plan A” spot. Fortunately, we made it. It was an idyllic spot, located at a campground on a small peninsula jutting out onto Lake Cascade, a beautiful reservoir in west-central Idaho, situated in a valley between two mountain ranges.
As though this wasn’t good enough, I had a plan to make it even better. We would bring our kayak and paddle boards — not only to give us something to do while we waited for the eclipse — but also to provide the most epic eclipse-viewing experience possible. As I figured, I could paddle out onto the lake in our two-person kayak along with my oldest daughter, who had recently broken her arm, while my wife and youngest daughter paddle-boarded along with us. As totality drew near, we could join our vessels together out on the open water and hold hands as the the world went completely dark.
Only, that’s not how it went down. Yes, I floated my great idea past my wife, who wasn’t at all keen on the concept. She didn’t think she would be comfortable lying on a paddle board when totality came, and decided instead that she’d prefer to watch from the beach. I can’t say this surprised me. My wife doesn’t have the same “epic” gene as me. She’s more about comfort and practicality. She worries about anything that might cause the slightest logistical hiccup — obsessing about sunscreen and bug spray and water bottles and snacks to a degree that I can’t quite fathom, and to the point that even the most minor excursions take hours of preparation and leave us looking more like a team prepared for the Iditarod than a family embarking on a half-hour hike in a state park. To her thinking, it would be pointless and illogical to float around uncomfortably on paddle boards and kayaks (presumably, without water bottles and snacks), when there is a perfectly good and practical beach from which to view the whole thing, with all of our necessary provisions at hand.
At this point, I decided that I’d head out on the kayak on my own, and attempted to recruit my oldest daughter (who inherited my wife’s worrisome gene), to go with me. Part of her wanted to join me, but she, too, was worried she wouldn’t be comfortable in the kayak, and would have to strain her neck to look up to see what was happening. I could tell her heart was on the beach, with my wife, but (being the worrier that she is), she was also worried that she would disappoint me by choosing to watch the eclipse there, rather than with me, which led to a bout of uninterrupted worry and indecision that lasted a good hour or more, despite my repeated reassurances that it was fine with me either way and that I would completely understand, however she decided.
In the meantime, my youngest daughter had paddled across the narrow inlet where we were camped, along with my wife, to an unpopulated beach on the other side, and had momentarily convinced my wife that we could watch totality happen from that location. That would have been an ok compromise by me, however, after they had returned, my wife had second thoughts, realizing (correctly) the extent of the logistics involved in schlepping all our Iditarod-like provisions across the lake, and decided it wasn’t meant to be. She informed our youngest (who, coincidentally, shares my “epic” gene) that we weren’t going to do it, which set my youngest into an uninterrupted frenzy of whining, pleading disappointment, which I thought, for a time, might never cease.
The discontentment and worry were now palpable. My youngest, upset that my wife had reneged on her private beach idea; my oldest, still worried that I was offended by her not joining me in the kayak; me, wondering, as I often have, how I possibly managed to find myself amidst so much worry and angst, turning what was supposed to be (in my mind) an epic, once-in-a-lifetime experience into something to be endlessly fretted and fussed over.
At this point, I had a choice to make — to paddle out into the lake by myself, where I could enjoy my epic moment alone — or remain on the beach with my family as the world went dark. I decided, as I have innumerable times since becoming a husband and father, to remain right where I was. I wanted us to share this experience together, as a family.
And we did. And the hour eventually drew near, and totality approached, and the temperature dropped unexpectedly to the point that we were all suddenly chilled, and the darkness descended upon us, and the moon fully eclipsed the sun, and the world became eerily dark and still, and we all held hands for a brief moment before the excitement of what was happening caused us all to stand, and the whining stopped and the worrying stopped and the water bottles were momentarily forgotten and the sunscreen was of no use at all, and it didn’t matter that I wasn’t out on the lake in a kayak . . . and we all looked up and around and were stunned and amazed by all that we were seeing and experiencing, and I knew that I was exactly where I belonged, and that it was indeed epic — there on the beach, with my wife and my daughters, amidst my totality.
Photo Credit: Tim Fearnside, Copyright 2017, all rights reserved.