Amy, the universe and becoming an eclipse chaser.


How did I become an eclipse chaser?

Like any good story, it begins with a girl.

I met Amy in the spring of 1991. I was a wide-eyed and wild 28 year-old and she was beautiful, sophisticated and as moonstruck as I was. It was love at first sight. We would go for walks – chase Moonrise to the outskirts of the city – and exchange life stories about our connection to the Moon. We had ‘kindred Moon souls,’ she once wrote. And how true that was.

Then in June she won a contract to move to Baja, Mexico, for two months to assist the peninsula’s tiny tourism businesses manage the throngs of scientists and eclipse chasers bearing down on them prior to the Total Solar Eclipse (TSE) of July 11. At this point I didn’t know much more about TSEs than any one else. I just didn’t want her to leave! But it was meant to be.

She called me at the beginning of July. This was going to be the event of a lifetime, she said. Would I come to Baja, stay with her for a week and enjoy the eclipse with her?

Wild horses couldn’t have kept me away.

My flight from Los Angeles landed in Cabo San Lucas on 6 July 1991. The minute I walked out on to the tarmack I loved the Baja. I hadn’t done much world travel at this point and a visceral sense of the exotic and the remote struck me instantly. I was excited to be finally in the path of the eclipse. But I wasn’t here to chase the eclipse. I was chasing a girl.

I took the bus up to La Paz and moved in with Amy. In the days prior to the eclipse, La Paz was the place to be. This sleepy Mexican town had been transformed into Astronomy Central. And the Mexicans were ready for us. As hosts, they took full advantage of the eclipse to celebrate the richness of their culture and to seduce travelers with public star parties, parades in the streets and social events that ran around the clock. There were tens of thousands of cool people filling the bars and I couldn’t escape the buzz in the air. It was the perfect setting for a young man desperate for adventure and romance.

When the day finally came, I could not have been more hyped about the eclipse. I had met and talked to so many rabid eclipse chasers in the past few days that my expectations were off the scale. These people were pumped! But when the eclipse began with the Moon taking a small bite out of the Sun, I got a chill that ran through my spine that I have never been able to describe in words.

As the partial phase of the eclipse progressed – with the Moon hiding more and more of the Sun – Amy and I drove up to the top of a hill overlooking the town.

Through my piece of green welder’s glass I could watch the Moon moving across the Sun – reducing it to an ever-shrinking crescent shape. When I finally noticed that it was starting to get dark – and the remaining light had taken on a soft, silvery quality – I had a thought that maybe my expectations were about to be exceeded. I couldn’t shake the realization that something cosmic was happening that couldn’t be stopped. Something that has its origins in the beginning of time. And that I am here – now – somehow part of it all. At the time I was clueless as to the significance of this. The Total Eclipse was only seconds away.

dm photo

From my diary:

I watched from a hilltop as the monstrous Moon shadow cut through the sky – racing off the Pacific Ocean and heading straight for me at 3500 kilometers per hour. The wind picked up and the temperature dropped. The sky was being cut in half! Through a piece of welder’s glass I watched the perfectly black disc of the Moon cross the final inch of the face of the Sun reducing it to a single sliver of brilliance. The town of La Paz faded into silhouettes before my eyes as the Moon’s “veil of darkness” swept up every living soul from west to east. Planets and stars appeared over my head in a sky that was now deeper and more magical than any twilight I had ever seen. I blinked and dropped my welder’s glass and looked up with my naked eye as the Moon finally hid the last burst of sunlight behind its jagged edge. This DIAMOND RING EFFECT is the final exhilarating moment of the transformation of daytime into night. With the Sun now totally hidden behind the dark side of the Moon, I took my first few breaths in the Moon’s umbra – the alien world known as TOTALITY.

I shook off the goose-bumps as best I could but the hair on the back of my neck was up to stay. With my naked eye I could see past the edge of the Moon to the surface of the Sun where brilliant pink and red explosions of gas were leaping up into space. These PROMINENCES looked as if a crimson jewel-box had tumbled open from behind the black limb of the Moon. And burning in every direction, the atmosphere of the sun – the long, thin, BRILLIANT WHITE STREAMERS of gas and magnetism that cut into space like pointy swords for 3 million kilometers in every direction!! The vision was sublime.

It lasted almost 7 minutes. It was as if our little spot on Earth had fallen out of time. It was as if we had been arrested in a red-rimmed dome of dark blue sky so the universe could peer in at us from overhead with its one giant eye just to see what we were doing. All of a sudden, I was in a relationship with the universe. I had never seen or felt anything like it before

totality amy musingI remembered to take some pictures and look through my binoculars, but that was all. Totality left me breathless. And I haven’t been quite the same since.

This is how eclipse chasers are made. All it takes is one eclipse.

The universe saw fit to take Amy and I on different paths after this and I have since lost track of her. But that old belief that people come into your life for a reason sure makes a lot more sense now. She helped open a door that completely altered the course of my life.

The past 20 years of my eclipse chasing career has been essentially a long meditation on this first experience of awakening. Awakening to the deeper reality of existence which is that I am part of a living, breathing universe that informs and animates every aspect of my being. How can the universe be alive? Well, I am alive and am I not an activity of the universe? I am conscious therefore the universe is conscious. I breathe therefore the universe breathes. It’s very important to make this connection – to include the universe in the creative act of everything you feel and think and do. After all, the universe is entirely responsible for you being here. You don’t think it knows everything about you?  Once you accept that the universe is alive – your identity changes.

Every word I write is the universe writing. When I hear my favorite music it is the universe that is enjoying it. It is only together that a personal sense of ‘me’ can take place. You cannot be separate or disconnected from the universe. In any way! You cannot have a realization that is not a part of the universe. Think about it.  And the force of life within you that animates your awareness of things – your sense of being here – the love in your heart – the inspiration in your words – is coming from the universe, too.  If you pause long enough, you will realize that you alone are not creating these aspects of your life.

dm portrait

My previous identity as a separate, totally self-contained organism with no relation to the phenomenon around me seems absurd now. Ever since that day in Mexico in 1991 I have been partnering with the universe. I step out of the way with all my ridiculous, repetitive thinking, pointless anxieties and fears and unexamined concepts and I let the pure force of life express itself through me. This way, none of it is mine. And if none of it is mine, I have no sense of ownership. And with no ownership I am free from any suffering that things aren’t turning out the way they should. I am just a wave on an ocean that knows it is not a wave. I am the ocean.

This is a much better way to live than the dream world I lived in before. The one where my concept of myself was limited to the boundary of my skin – limited to the flow of thoughts in my mind – limited to what I was told I was growing up.  My identity today includes much more than I was lead to believe was possible.  The universe really does express itself through you.

You could say I saw myself in the eclipse that day. I didn’t know it at the time but the eclipse – which I described as sublime, enormous, spectacular – was actually a mirror in the sky that showed me the parts of myself that could also be described this way. Because whether we realize it or not, each of us lives out an aspect of our lives on a grander scale. Like a hologram, a fragment within us reflects the whole source from which we come.  The great mythological and archetypal powers are part of our psychology. These collective energies are why we all respond to the things that seem larger than life – works of art – great athletes – prolific musicians and artists – or a total eclipse.  There is something in each of these that represent us in some way. Something bigger, grander than how we normally think of ourselves.  This expanded or ‘cosmic’ Self is shared by all of us.  This is what came to me on that hilltop in La Paz that day in 1991. The eclipse as the giant metaphor for life.

One response to “Amy, the universe and becoming an eclipse chaser.

  1. David,

    Such elegant, graceful, passionate writing about our cosmic connection 😉
    Non attachment, allowing the Universe to express itself through us… and being the ocean.
    If that’s what your first solar eclipse taught you, we should all see one.
    Great food for thought. Thank-you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *