Monday, August 21, 2017. A comfortable guest cabin in the serene Mark Twain National Forest complete with air conditioning and mountain views.
Century-old working barns are common sights on county roads in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.
A true master of his domain, my furry companion served as excellent guide across property stretching 100 acres.
My canine hiking partner and I encountered an igneous glade on the higher elevation carpeted in thick mats of sphagnum moss.
Another common sight in the undisturbed portions of the St. Francois Mountains, Cup fungi and Reindeer lichen make their home in the open spaces of the glade among the dense sphagnum.
Small cascading rock waterfalls along Marble Creek, known in the Ozarks as shut-ins, provide the perfect daytime meditative sanctuary.
A fearless creature of the mountains, Moby navigated all terrain with unmatched skill.
After a month’s long preparation of spiritual cleansing, incense and sage burning, meditation, soul-searching, travel logistics, and hiking and photography plans for a once in-a-lifetime, transformative experience, nothing could prepare me for the sweltering August heat when the eclipse began mid-morning as I reached the high point of Hawn State Park.
Things seemed to complete some kind of personal cycle, as the Grateful Dead’s welcome presence later in my life shaped a therapeutic path, allowing me to heal past wounds and begin a new identity. I began hiking places like the Missouri Ozarks after a traumatic health crisis in 2009 left me unable to work, enjoy any music or photography for an extended period of time. The Grateful Dead provided the musical backdrop for my outdoor adventures taking me deep into wilderness while capturing almost 20,000 images of rivers, creeks, bluffs, springs, caves, glades, ridges, hollows, sinkholes, natural bridges, natural tunnels, thick forests, open prairie, mountain valleys, canyons, old-growth trees, wildflowers, mosses, lichens, unique rock formations, waterfalls, old Ozark grain mills, insects, migratory birds, and all other kinds forest creatures including pests like seed ticks and the tortuous skin effects of chiggers; it was the only music I wanted to listen to and the only kind of music that seemed to fit the spirit of the outdoors, especially the Ozarks. 1500 hiking miles and many years later, I travelled a long country road to a favorite park with the satellite radio tuned on the Grateful Dead Channel 23 as the station celebrated the celestial day with non-stop tracks of Dark Star.
Daylight visibly begins to fade as the moon is seen overhead blocking half of the sun.
1:17 pm – Totality begins and the eclipse is safe to view with the naked eye for 2 minutes and 32 seconds as the sky darkens enough to see a few nearby stars and planets.
1:19 pm – As eclipse totality approached, the surrounding mixed-pine forest became still, birds flew into trees, and complete silence enveloped the backcountry; an intense, motionless quiet in dark surroundings felt deep within burned a permanent place in my awestruck memory.
Totality ends as ellipse-shaped shadows refract off the forest canopy above and cast luminous crescents across sandstone below.
Darkness retreats as the land and author are reborn.