Eclipse Trips

My daughters and I decided to drive 539 miles to see the eclipse in totality.  It was a trip that I really couldn’t afford, but I couldn’t really afford not to see it either.  

My girls and I make a point to go out and see every full moon.  It’s our thing.   When we were living with my ex boyfriend on the prairie, the full moon was our saving grace.  We would gather out under the willow tree and stare in amazement at the beautiful clear sky.  And we would talk.  It was beautiful.  You could see the Milky Way so clearly out there.  But the full moon in that setting was a sacred sight.  It became our little tradition and we have kept it up even now that we live amongst trees.  We just drive around the prairie to see it.  This tradition is what I named this blog after.  Our ‘little moon talks’ were one of a few good things that came from the experience of moving my kids into a man’s home who had no intention of loving us or being a part of our family.  Ironically, my little family grew a lot closer because of that experience.  Those talks were the needle and thread, that stitched together the fabric of our bond.  

So this once in a lifetime eclipse was non-negotiable.  We had to see it in all of it’s glory.  On Sunday afternoon, we got in the car and started driving south.  It’s kind of scary to venture out on a big road trip as a single mom.  I grew up with a very safety conscious dad who used terrorism as a means to educate me about the world.  So my mind was repeatedly going through every possible disaster as I drove my old crappy car down the highway.

I had booked a hotel in a small town just a few hours from the eclipse destination.  I had googled the town and it looked adorable from the pictures.  We had our swimsuits packed and ready because this Southern Indiana hotel offered such amenities as an outdoor pool and continental breakfast!  It was a name brand hotel, so I figured we were safe.  Besides…I saw some pictures online and it looked cute! 

When we arrived to the hotel, a twelve year old boy took my credit card payment and advised that our room was around the corner from the office.  We drove around the building and my heart dropped.  The pool was full of trees.  Of the two cars in the parking lot, one of them was covered with bungee cords, duct tape, and spray paint.  I had the terrifying feeling that we would end up much the same way had we actually stayed there.  There were sketchy people inside one of the rooms, peaking out from the curtain, probably sizing up my children for human trafficking purposes.  We didn’t even go inside.  We went back to the office and asked for a refund, to which the twelve year old host acted as if he hands out refunds all day long.  I’m sure he does.  Unfortunately, he ended up charging my card again before issuing a double refund.

I panicked.  I was about 6 hours away from home.  I had very little money to work with, and the refund was going to take five days to process.  We drove around until we found another hotel that looked a little bit better from the outside.  When we walked in, an older gentleman with stained up sweatpants and a ripped up tshirt ignored us for a moment before looking up and offering a room for $68.00.  I didn’t see any other options, so we booked it.  This hotel smelled like burning garbage.  I’m not sure what a meth lab smells like, because I have never smelled one before, but I’m sure there were at least a few of them operating in that hotel.  We locked our door and I laid our own blankets on top of the bed.  I tried to remain calm, but inside I was panicking.  I couldn’t stand the smell, it was unlike anything I had ever smelled before.  

I posted my situation on Facebook, partly because I wanted people to know where we were in case we came up missing.  And partly because I thought my eight year old daughter nailed the situation when she said that hotel was straight out of the television show ‘My Name Is Earl.’  

I was ecstatic when my childhood best friend who I haven’t seen in more than a decade responded saying that she only lived 45 minutes from our hotel and to come over because she had spare bedrooms ready for us.  I had tears in my eyes from the relief I felt after hearing from her.  I didn’t even know she was living in Southern Indiana.  We gathered our belongings and b-lined out of that disgusting mess.  This time, a refund was refused.

It was surreal, arriving to my old friend’s house in the middle of the night.  Her house was beautiful and she had two safe, clean bedrooms ready for us.  I was so thankful.  I was also excited that my girls got to meet her.  The last time I saw her was at my baby shower when I was pregnant with my fourteen year old.  

In the morning, we headed out early.  We took all the back roads through rural Kentucky.  We drove through the mountains and down curvy roads that wound around through mountains and rivers.  We saw endless horse pastures and golden yellow tobacco fields and homes that should be in magazines.  We listened to good music and had conversations about the meaning behind their lyrics.  It was a glorious day.

When the eclipse came, we were in the parking lot of a high school in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  We had our glasses ready and spread a blanket out in the shade of some pine trees.  It was so cool to watch the sun disappear.  When the moon had covered the sun completely, and darkness fell into the daytime, and the birds went silent, and the crickets started chirping, I looked over at my girls.  They were smiling and enjoying the adventure of it all.  I thought for a moment about how far we had all come, not just in that crazy trip, but in life.  I got really emotional and started to cry.  I’m not sure what exactly I was releasing there in the big shadow hovering over Kentucky, but it felt good to let go.  And my girls got a good laugh at their sometimes overly sentimental mom who drove eight and a half hours to cry through the Great American Eclipse.  

The trip back took an extra four hours because of the heavy traffic.  My girls never argued.  I never had to yell at them.  They only ever complained about that hotel room, which was completely understandable.  

In the past couple of months, I’ve had certain people in my life question my abilities as a mom.  My own mother told me that driving to Kentucky was irresponsible of me.  My ex husband had tried to demand custody of my younger daughter, saying that he could do better than I do.  Sometimes I let these people get into my head.  But after taking this amazing trip with my girls, I really don’t care what anyone else thinks. Those little ladies are my family and I couldn’t ask for a better tribe.  We are complete and content, just as we are.  


Beauty is Therapy 

I see beauty in everything. Literally everything. This has been both a blessing and a curse in my life.  
The sunsets out on the prairie are so exquisite, I sometimes cry in awe of the magnitude of the moment when the sun dips out of sight. But I also find beauty in the ruins of downtown Detroit, a city once full of hope and hustle, now a broken reminder of abandonment. In some ways, the city reminds me of myself, and that resemblance is beautiful to me.  

I think every person I’ve ever met is beautiful. I love to go to concerts and festivals, watching people, wondering what this human experience has been through their eyes.  
I think elderly people are the most beautiful, holding a lifetime of love and heartache in the wrinkles drawn across their fragile skin. I can’t help but to wonder what they’ve learned here, what feelings they have experienced along the way of growing from a brand new baby into a weathered old soul.  Who have they loved? Who has loved them?  

At the same time, I think children are just as beautiful. Their tiny little worlds, so full of wonder and learning. Wouldn’t it be great if we could experience the adventure of discovering this world for the first time again? With our senses not yet jaded, minds still open, and emotions raw and genuine?  

I see beauty in the pageant queen, just as easily as I see the beauty in a beggar clothed in dirt and hand me down rags. The human experience, no matter who is experiencing it, is awe inspiring and beautiful.

Last spring, I took a very informative tour of the old State Hospital in Traverse City, Michigan.  An insane asylum that operated differently than any other facility of it’s kind.  Talk about beauty, this magnificent building is a masterpiece of architecture. Most of it has been rebuilt, but we toured the untouched remnants of buildings left to the destruction of time and vandals. The first of it’s kind, the State hospital opened up with a brand new concept in mental health wellness. Beauty is therapy, their motto for this self-sustaining facility where clients were given purpose by taking part in all daily functions. The property was surrounded by beautiful gardens, where patients helped to grow and produce their own food.  They also helped to prepare, serve, and clean up.  Every patient had a job.  There was such an abundance of resources there, that the hospital donated produce to the townspeople on a regular basis.  This facility was the beating heart of northern Michigan for many years.

There were no fences, gates, or bars on the windows. People didn’t want to leave. Every ward was equipped with a large screened in porch and ceiling to floor windows, allowing patients to feel the warm healing rays of the sun.  

This facility opened at a time when women could be checked into a mental hospital, simply for going through menopause. Their husbands would sign them in and then pick them up three years later or sometimes not at all.

I like to think that the beauty of the facility helped those patients to cope with such cruel abandonment and suppression. I like to believe that they were probably even thankful for the opportunity to live in such a therapeutic place.  

Patients who were feeling over stressed were allowed to lay in a deep warm bath, complete with a canvas cover to hold the heat in, stimulating an almost womb like experience. Patients were cared for with great detail. Beauty is therapy. Aesthetics are so very important to our wellbeing.  I walked through these old, broken down buildings.  I could see through the falling bricks and faded paint.  I could see the love that went into creating this oasis of lost souls.  I could see the empathy brought forth by the designer of this space.  I could see respite and reprieve in days gone by.

I see beauty in every person. Sometimes I have to work at it, other times it comes easily. But seeing people the way that I do, is therapeutic for everyone involved. 

When you find beauty in every aspect of your world, your world becomes a dreamy and beautiful place to exist. And when people come into your life, you allow them to see themselves through your own beautiful eyes. And they will then share that experience with the people in their lives. And this admiration for each other’s souls will spread like a wildfire across the land. How beautiful would that be?