If you live in the United States and your answer is anything other than "watching the total solar eclipse," I'm gonna say you need to change your plans.
Here's why this whole thing is so awesome.
First of all, it's a cosmic coincidence that total solar eclipses happen AT ALL. Our sun just happens to be 400 times bigger than the moon, but it also just happens to be 400 times farther away from us. So from our point of view on earth, they appear to be exactly the same size. The moon passes between the sun and the earth, causing a total solar eclipse, fairly often...it's visible from some point on earth about once every 18 months. But the path of totality crossing the United States? That's a little rarer. The last time it happened was in 1979, and it won't happen again until 2024.
So where's it gonna be visible? HERE:
That grey band is where you gotta be to see totality. You'll still get a pretty good show elsewhere (check out this guy's site for more info), but it's less than a day's drive to get to the path of totality from just about any point in the U.S. So I say go for it! Carpe diem, people!
Although...two warnings. Number one, don't look at the eclipse without eye protection. You can suffer serious permanent eye damage from looking directly at the sun, even when it's partially blocked by the moon. You can get special "eclipse glasses" for hella cheap on Amazon, though (pack of ten for $10). Regular sunglasses won't cut it. Number two, hotels and campsites along the path of totality are BOOKED SOLID, and have been for months. Because big space nerds like me plan their entire year around this.
BUT JUST CHECK OUT WHAT WE HAVE TO LOOK FORWARD TO!
Here's what will happen in the path of totality on August 21st, 2017, over the course of about half an hour. (DON'T FORGET TO WEAR ECLIPSE GLASSES!)
As the moon starts to move in front of the sun, it will appear to take a little tiny bite out of it. You'll be able to see this with a telescope before you can see it with the naked eye.
Crescent projections may possibly be seen on various surfaces
As more of the sun is covered, it will look like a crescent. If you happen to be near some trees or other vegetation, look on the ground. The spaces between the leaves create a "pinhole camera," projecting images of the solar eclipse on the ground. You can also create this same effect by making your own pinhole projector--just punch a tiny hole in a sheet of paper or cardboard.
The light will become noticeably dimmer. You may even notice a strange or eerie "tint" to the light as more of the sun is blocked, and colors will appear washed out.
Strange animal behavior
If you happen to be near wildlife, you may notice some changes in behavior. Animals don't keep calendars of solar eclipses (that we know of), so they interpret the darkening light as oncoming twilight, and may either settle in for the night, or get up and start their nocturnal activities. (Joke's on you, fauna!)
Because of the angle and amount of light, shadows become much sharper. If you look at your own shadow, you may be able to see the shadows of the individual hairs on your arms.
Drop in temperature
Two thirds of the sun's radiation is in the form of heat, so as more of the sun is covered, we get less of that heat. The weather changes will vary depending on where you are, but you can expect an average drop in temperature of about 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Oncoming umbral shadow
Quick! Look to the west! You'll see the moon's shadow barreling towards you as the eclipse continues. The shadow moves across the landscape at over 1000 mph! (By comparison, planes cruise at around 575 mph, and the speed of sound is about 767 mph.)
Just before totality, you may be able to see shadow bands rippling across any white-colored surfaces nearby. The tiny sliver of sunlight remaining passes through layers of turbulent air in the earth's atmosphere, producing shadow bands--kind of like the patterns the sunlight makes in water.
The moon isn't a perfect sphere...it's got mountains and valleys just like earth. As it passes in front of the sun, a few last shafts of light pass through these valleys, creating bright "beads" of light in a ring around the moon.
When only one of Bailey's beads remains, the moon will look like a diamond ring in the sky.
THE MOON WILL COMPLETELY BLOCK THE SUNLIGHT! Totality will last about two and a half minutes, depending on where you are. And it will be amazing. Night will fall during the middle of the day, and instead of the sun, there will only be a black disc visible in the sky.
For a few brief seconds at the beginning of totality, you may be able to see the sun's red outer photosphere and chromosphere. If you are lucky, you may even see prominences, red streamers of light created by eruptions on the sun.
You'll be able to see the stars and planets during the day. In the United States, you'll be able to see Venus, Jupiter, and maybe Mars and Mercury.
The light will create a 360-degree sunset.
And for a few brief minutes, you'll get to see the sun's corona...outer wispy layers of ionized gas that are only visible during a total solar eclipse. The translucent shafts of light shining out from all sides of the sun is one of the rarest sights in nature, and can be as bright as a full moon at night. This is the main source of light during an eclipse. If you have a telescope or binoculars, you can look for loops and arcs in the corona that reveal the sun's magnetic fields. The corona is very difficult to photograph, and photographs aren't able to capture the full live experience of viewing.
Then, Bailey's beads will become visible again, the umbral shadow will continue moving west, and everything else will happen in reverse order.
AND WE GET TO WITNESS IT! This is a cosmic MIRACLE. I know the word "miracle" has religious connotations, but I can't think of a good secular equivalent to describe how incredible it is that this happens and that we get to be alive and on earth and in the United States to see it.
So what are you waiting for?! Make your plans! Figure out the closest path of totality and tell your boss you're taking the day off.
Here's your packing list:
- Binoculars and/or telescope
- Eclipse glasses
- A pinhole camera (piece of cardboard with a hole poked in it)
- A large piece of white posterboard or foamcore board to see shadow bands
- A full tank of gas
- A sense of wonder.
See ya in 54 days, solar eclipse.
Learn more about the upcoming solar eclipse here, here, and especially here.
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Sunday, June 18, 2017
Here's something you may or may not know about me: I and a handful of other ladies I know run an LDS sex website for women called Eternal Intimacy. A few of us got so tired of not having clear, honest resources about sexuality with an LDS perspective that we just created one. It's not super active, but I'm still really proud of it. (I'm especially proud of the "Newly Engaged Kit" section of the website, where we give details about birth control, answer common questions, give some basic anatomy, and detail what to expect on your wedding night.)
ANYWAY, a few months ago, we ran an article called "What Mormons Can Learn From Other Communities." In helping put together the article, I stumbled into all kinds of rabbit holes, but I spent a lot of time learning about the polyamory community, and now I'm coming back to my own world with some wisdom.
Polyamory is a blanket term for any consensual non-monogamy. It could be anything from a group marriage to an open relationship. It IS NOT adultery--the difference is knowledge and consent of all parties involved. Polyamorous people can cheat, the same as monogamous people. (You can learn more about polyamory here.) I'm not here to debate the idea of polyamory, or discuss whether or not is a real, sustainable thing. I'm just sharing some of the ideas I've found in that community that resonate with me. Because there are a handful of ideas in the poly community that I think apply to ALL relationships. Or at least they should. Not just romantic relationships, or sexual relationships. All relationships. Monogamous and otherwise.
I've been thinking a lot about relationships in general lately--everything from marriages to friendships. (Understandably.) And I keep feeling like I'm on the edge of figuring something big out...like I keep stumbling on puzzle pieces, but I don't know what the finished puzzle is yet. I'm probably tilting at windmills in trying to put it all together RIGHT NOW, but in the meantime, here are some of those puzzle pieces, stolen straight from the poly community.
Puzzle Piece #1: "New Relationship Energy" (NRE)
This refers to that giddy feeling of excitement and infatuation at the beginning of a relationship. Sometimes this is called the "honeymoon phase" of a relationship. You know the phase. The butterflies when they call. The way your stomach drops when you think about kissing them. The grin you can't wipe off your face when they say something nice. That phase when you want to talk to them all the time, and they're so awesome, and everything in the world smells like rainbows. This phase (or some variation of it) can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years.
CLEARLY, this is something that most people feel, not just poly folks. But poly folks have a name for it for two reasons. 1, being non-monogamous means you're more likely to experience New Relationship Energy more often. 2, poly folks have learned that this phase is not a good time to make big decisions. And THAT'S the lesson I'm carrying with me. Hollywood and romance novels would have us believe that if that big sparkly feeling is missing, something is wrong and you shouldn't be with someone. But Hollywood and romance novels are full of crap. The polyamory world says, "Enjoy those giddy feelings! Have fun! But know that it wears off. Don't make any big decisions about your relationship during this phase. Wait until things cool down enough for you to think clearly." That's a damn sight smarter than how most of us do things.
And I think this can apply to more than just romantic relationships. I think we sometimes get a version of this in friendships, too, just not as strongly. But sometimes we get so excited about new friendships that we make plans, either consciously or unconsciously, that can't be sustained. Because NRE wears off. THAT'S NOT A BAD THING. Feelings don't disappear. They shift. They settle.
Puzzle Piece #2: Dealing With Jealousy
There's this myth about the polyamory world that poly folks don't get jealous, and that that's why they can have open relationships. But that's not quite true. There are poly folks who get jealous, and there are poly folks that don't. But here's what poly folks recognize about jealousy. 95% of the time, jealousy is about your own fears. There is the 5% of the time when there really is an issue that you need to talk about with the person in question. But before you do, you can pause and ask yourself, "What am I afraid of? What am I worried that I won't get? What am I scared I'll lose? What needs am I afraid won't be met?" And most of the time, you can work that stuff out for yourself.
Let's say your significant other has lunch with an old boyfriend/girlfriend. You're pretty sure they won't cheat on you, but you still feel jealous. That's an opportunity to tune in and say, "Okay, what am I scared I won't get?" Maybe the answer is time with your significant other. Maybe the answer is you're afraid they'll feel new relationship energy and not want to be with you. Maybe you're scared that if they leave you, you'll never find love again. Once you've identified those fears, you can go through and address them.
I don't know about you guys, but this has happened to me with friendships, too. I'll have a really meaningful connection with someone, and then they'll also have meaningful connections with other people. Which is actually just how friendship works. But dammit if I don't get jealous sometimes. Blame the trauma of middle school or whatever. But in recent months, when I feel twinges of jealousy, I've taken time to stop and think about what I'm afraid of. And then I've addressed those fears.
This doesn't prevent jealousy from happening. But it's a healthier way of dealing with jealousy.
Puzzle Piece #3: Compersion
So, the poly community coined this new term that's basically the opposite of jealousy. It's a feeling of joy or elation you get when your significant other (or one of them, if you're poly) finds satisfaction in another relationship.
This is another tool to help deal with initial feelings of jealousy. Step one, address your own fears. Step two, think outside yourself and try a little positive empathy. This doesn't just apply to people--you can feel compersion that your significant other/friend/roommate/sibling/parent/whatever has found a great new video game that they love, or a TV show that they can't get enough of, or a friendship that's enriching their life. Your initial instinct may be to resent whatever it is that seems to be drawing this person away from you. And you can't really force yourself to feel compersion if you don't. But sometimes you can choose to feel that way.
Puzzle Piece #4: Don't Make One Person Responsible for Meeting All of Your Needs
I've been realizing lately that I tend to do this sometimes, regardless of whether the relationship is romantic or friendly or what have you. This is something I'm still trying to figure out--how much ANYONE else is "responsible" for meeting someone else's needs. (I'll let you know when I figure it out...probably sometime around 2053.)
But this is one of the benefits that polyamorous people experience in their romantic or sexual relationships. Say you love playing video games with your partner, but you fall in love with someone who hates them. In a monogamous situation, you're stuck. But for poly folks, you simply find someone else to play video games with. (Technically, you can also do this if you're monogamous, but sometimes people make rules for themselves and their relationships that prevent it.)
THIS APPLIES SO MUCH TO FRIENDSHIPS. Sometimes I get into this weird head-space where I sort of put all of my eggs into one friendship basket for a little while. But it means that when that person is busy, or has other obligations, or other desires, I am basket-less and egg-less. This also means that I spend a lot of time in that friendship being selfish and TERRIFIED that they'll take away the basket and the eggs at any second and then I WILL NOT HAVE ANY FRIENDS.
(We're all neurotic somehow. Brene Brown, please high five me for being vulnerable right now.)
This is obviously a problem. It can make my friendships all about me and my fears instead of about who someone is or our common interests. It also means I'm miserable if they can't meet my every need. It means that any time I spend with that friend has a faint undercurrent of terror that makes me not quite genuine. It means that I think I have to bribe people into being friends with me.
I've found myself in this situation a little more often since Jacob and I separated, and I'm grateful it hasn't been drastic enough to burn any bridges down. I'm still learning how to get out of that head-space, and how to reach outward with less fear. (Granted, I'm a little fragile when it comes to any relationship at all right now, so I'm trying to be patient with myself as I stumble through. If you've been hurt by my neurosis, I apologize deeply. Come talk to me.) But I think the poly community has something right simply in recognizing that it's unreasonable to expect one person to meet all of our needs, all of the time. You gotta spread that love around. (In a platonic way, if you are monogamous.)
Puzzle Piece #5: Talk About It
Final thing I'm stealing from the poly world? I have rarely seen any group of people emphasize communication as much as these folks. It's simply a necessity. After the New Relationship Energy fades, a great deal of any relationship is just administrative tasks. For those who've been in a relationship, think about your schedule and how difficult it can be to make time for each other. Now double that. (Or triple it...etc.) And add on top of it discussions about making sure everyone's needs are met. Poly relationships demand that people talk to each other honestly and often.
But let's be real. Every single relationship we have, romantic or otherwise, could probably benefit from talking honestly and often.
I'll probably be gathering puzzle pieces like these for the rest of my life. I feel a little frustrated sometimes that I don't just HAVE IT ALL FIGURED OUT RIGHT NOW. I'm impatient like that. About most things. And given my recent circumstances, my desperate desire to figure things out makes sense. But I'm learning to just live in the moment a little more. To appreciate the knowledge I have, and to try and do kind and happy things, instead of worrying so much about whether or not I'm doing everything "right." Sometimes the road map we have doesn't have as much detail as we'd like. So for those moments, I'm grateful for what guidance I can find. Even if it comes in puzzle piece form.
I'm mixing my metaphors here, but I trust you know what I mean.
Monday, June 12, 2017
Jacob moved out in mid-February. (I'll write more about our divorce another time.) I drained my savings account to redecorate the entire apartment (and it looks awesome), because it was cheaper to do that than move, and because I won't find another apartment for $525 in as good of a location.
This also means that I'm currently living alone, something I did only once for a summer when I was in my early twenties. For the vast majority of my life, I've shared a bedroom, or at least an apartment or house. But I find I enjoy living alone. There are definitely benefits.
- I can wear whatever I want around the house, without making anyone else uncomfortable or distracted. (In these summer months, this means that I'm mostly naked, most of the time. I mean, do you see the title of my blog?)
- I can decorate every space however I want to. Do I want to put glow-in-the-dark stars on the bedroom ceiling? Do I want to re-arrange the furniture in the living room? Do I want to post this subversive cross-stitch in a prominent place? The entire apartment is my space, and I don't have to consult anyone about how I want it to look and feel.
- I can stay up as late as I want, and turn lights on and make noise without disturbing anyone. (Within reason...I do have neighbors.)
- I can keep thing as messy or as tidy as I want, without it affecting anyone else.
- I can have friends over any time, without needing to notify or check in with someone else.
Basically, I don't have to be considerate? It's good to be considerate, and when I'm living with another person, being considerate is its own reward and I didn't MIND doing these considerate things. It's just kind of nice to not have to worry about it.
Of course, there are hazards of living alone.
- There's no one there to rub aloe vera on my sunburned back. (I've currently got a patchy sunburn from camping this weekend...I'm only burned in the places where I didn't reach with sunscreen. Which means I also can't reach those spots with aloe vera.)
- It's hard to shop for one person. I'm not going to eat an entire loaf of bread in one week, but I can't buy half a loaf? So I have to freeze half? And some weeks I go through a gallon of milk, and sometimes just half that. I don't want food to go bad, but I also want food. I'm still figuring out how much to buy for myself.
- I have to make an effort to be social. I'm a fairly introverted person--I much prefer meaningful conversations with a few friends to a big party, and for every hour I spend with other people, I generally need an hour on my own. But I DO need those hours with other people. It can be lonely to live alone. So when I want to spend time with people, it takes more coordination. I have to call or text to set something up, and sometimes schedules don't quite line up. In college, if I wanted to spend time with people, I would just go into the living room, and usually a roommate or two would be available.
- Sometimes I start thinking about zombies/aliens/serial killers/ghosts and it's spooky to be in an apartment by myself in those times. Although, if I really WAS in some kind of danger, I'm pretty sure the ladies in my apartment complex would have my back. I live in a four-plex, and right now it's just women--three single ladies and a lesbian couple. The departure of all of the men in our building happened within the last few months, and that departure was marked by a strange uptick in building maintenance. The weeds in the yard have been removed. Stepping stones have been added to a pathway. Curtains have been hung up in the laundry room. Potted plants sit on the porch. We're just five badass women making a life for ourselves in this apartment building, and we just each needed "a room of one's own" to do it. I've started calling this place Themyscira, after the island where the Amazons live in "Wonder Woman." (Important note: I don't plan on killing any of the men who visit our island. Men are welcome here. There's just something special about having a place for just women--it's something that's been denied women for centuries, and often still is--to be away from male supervision.)
In general, I like living alone. (Someone suggested using a paint roller to apply aloe vera, so that problem is basically solved.) So I'll raise a glass to all my wonder women who make meals at midnight in their skivvies: "Here's to living alone!"