PeerSpirit Newsletter – The Owl and the Tree
September 2017


Dear Friends of PeerSpirit,

It’s been awhile since our last newsletter! We’ve been busy enjoying summer activities, visits with friends and family, and spending lots of time out in the garden and in nature. We hope you had a good summer as well!

Christina and Ann head to Germany this week for the Global Circle Way Fire Gathering, followed by a trip to Ireland. They’ll be writing about that experience in our next newsletter.

For this month, we turn our attention to the recent total solar eclipse and our reactions to it.

The Importance of the American 2017 Total Solar Eclipse: Reflection in Three PeerSpirit Voices

by Christina Baldwin, Ann Linnea, and Debbie Dix

The total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 made its trajectory across the breadth of the American continent, travelling over what is often referred to as “the heartland.”

It was, this time around, a particularly American phenomenon. Though only two minutes long, this little black dot in the late summer sky provided a much needed respite from a voracious news cycle full of terrifying complexities from nuclear attack to hurricanes to terrorism to famine. In the midst of all this, millions of Americans stopped to watch the moon float implacably over the white-hot star that gives us life on Earth.

Scientists were masterful in predicting, educating, and involving the ordinary public in this natural event. The premier website for this outreach is the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) website: Everything from how eclipses work to locally scheduled events to rarely seen phenomenon were documented on this excellent site.

Diagram from NASA website

Ann’s fourteen-year-old nephew, Frank Jonas Parsons, was one of thousands of youths who got inspired and involved in reporting this event. He lives in Brevard, NC, a city in the “totality” zone. This graph is the one Frank submitted to NASA to report his observed temperature differences before, during, and after the moments of eclipse.

Temperature Graph by Frank Jonas Parsons

A time lapse video of the total eclipse was created by our friend and colleague David Trowbridge as part of his contribution to the Eclipse Megamovie, a project between UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory and Google. Watch David’s video here:

Christina, Henry, and Gracie

Christina and Ann and a dozen friends gathered in Washington state in the meadow of one friend’s home. When a two-year-old neighbor came over with his father to see what was happening, Christina became a momentary grandma determined to keep his eclipse glasses on so he would not burn his eyes. Henry squinted skyward and asked, “Are we’s looking at the piecrust?”

Yes, Henry, exactly.

As the season shifts from summer to fall and world events literally eclipse the eclipse, we at PeerSpirit are determined to keep tethering ourselves to that moment when millions and millions of people were all looking at the same piecrust.

We experienced 92% of totality on Whidbey Island, but Debbie and her family gathered in Corvallis, OR, 300 miles away, for the total eclipse. She describes her experience:

Totality. The word itself suggests something immense and complete. Sitting in the backyard of our son’s rental house in Corvallis, we waited for the moment (or rather 1 minute 39 seconds) when the moon would completely cover the sun. As the time got closer, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped noticeably, and our surroundings became eerily darker.

Joel and Debbie, waiting for totality

When the moment of totality came, we took off our eclipse glasses and gasped. It was incredibly beautiful – the moon a simple black disk, the sun’s corona a white star-shaped halo around it, with a dark indigo sky as the backdrop. I had imagined it would be awesome. I didn’t expect it to be so unbearably moving and gorgeous. An incredible gift to share with the two people I love the most – my husband and our son. As well as with the millions of others across America who were also looking skyward.

We had spent the previous weekend attending the OSU 150 Space Grant Festival: A Total Eclipse Experience at Oregon State University, where our son is a student. OSU faculty, students, and special guests offered talks about the eclipse, gamma ray bursts, meteorites, rocketry, and other space-related subjects. There were activities for people of all ages (Touch a meteorite!; Look through a telescope at the night sky; Make your own eclipse viewer; Visit a gallery to see eclipse-related art, etc.) All offered free to the public, and attended by a large and diverse group of people – the very essence of a public university’s mission. In these turbulent times, it was truly heartening to see so many people coming together to learn and be awed by this natural event…

America is an incredibly divided society right now and the spectacle of millions of people standing or sitting and looking in the same direction is awesome. The sun called us to full salutation: heads back, hearts open. This is a vulnerable position, exposed to one another as well as to the sky, a shared stance taken alongside neighbors and strangers without asking first about politics or religion, citizenship or immigration status.

Demos is the Greek word for “people:” kratia is the Greek word for “power, rule, authority.” So “demoskratia” means power residing in the strength of the people. And the English derivation, “democracy” means a system of government in which the power to rule is vested in the people. The people have nearly lost the power to rule -but the eclipse reminds us that we can rise up in awe and look together in a similar direction. Now the question remains: what events will we allow to call us back to this unified stance? 

Eclipse crescent shadows on the garage wall, Corvallis

From TIME Magazine, September 4 issue, page 19 by Jeffrey Klugger, Casper Wyoming:

“There’s no telling exactly how many people were in the 536,000 cars that entered the state of Wyoming in the few days leading up to the eclipse…They jammed the roads and camped on the land and overran the streets of usually quiet cities like Casper, and yet at the end of each day, when most event organizers and security officials conducted their incident tally, they came up empty. Road rage? Didn’t happen– Property crimes? Nothing — Brawls in the standing-room only bars? Not one. It was like that all along the 70-mile-wide, 2,500 mile-long-path of totality…a sort of wondering calm and commonality took hold.”