August 15th, 2017

Stop dwelling on passing days, months and years. Look with delight in the undergrowth where chrysanthemums bloom.— Dogen Zenji

When my parents were still quite young, they used to join friends every now and then for an event called a “grunion run.” The grunion is a slender, five-inch-long fish found in the waters off Southern and Baja California with a rather adventurous spawning behavior. In the middle of the night at high tide during the full and new moons of spring and summer, thousands of grunion might swim far up onto the beach and flop themselves into the wave-washed sand. Eggs are laid and fertilized. You can fish for them while all this is underway, but only with your bare hands.

I remember this as something that a family with three children under age 7 could do for a thrill when they had no money and a six-pack of beer. Any haul of fish, I suspect, was secondary to the exhilaration of running amok in the wet sand at high tide in the dead of night.

At the time, and for long after, my parents’ lives were burdened by worry, despair and disappointment. It’s not surprising that it seemed reasonable to bundle up on a windy cold beach with your babies at midnight and wait for the split-second when something truly remarkable could happen.

Last week a package arrived at the door. Inside were special glasses for viewing a solar eclipse. My husband, the NASA engineer, is gearing up for the event of a lifetime. He’s flying to a place that’s located within the so-called path of totality, the 65-mile-wide swath from Oregon to South Carolina where the full eclipse can be viewed, clouds permitting. He offered that my daughter and I could come too, but I reminded him that she would have started school by then, her last year here at home. He shrugged and said that it would only be visible for 2 minutes anyway.

Each moment is nothing but the moment of appearing and disappearing. — Maezumi Roshi

Even as brief as 2 minutes, the sight “brings people to tears,” said a spokesperson for the American Astronomical Society. “It makes people’s jaws drop.” The lure of instant transcendence must be irresistible. A friend in Oregon told me that the hotels are all booked up and the little towns are bracing for huge crowds and massive traffic jams.

These days on Earth are exceedingly dark and worrisome. We have every reason to despair for ourselves, our children and our future. So we look for solace and meaning, inspiration and awe. But what we’re really hankering for is not what happens just once in a lifetime. And it’s not going to be found up in the sky. Besides, despite what people think, a total eclipse of the sun is not even that rare. Every 18 months (on average) a total solar eclipse is visible from some place on the Earth’s surface. Wherever you are standing, it might return in as long as 375 years, or as short as a year-and-a-half. Will you see it? For that matter, will you ever see your life unfolding in its precious rarity right where you stand? That’s the real question.

This is the fact of your life! This is the business of this life!—Maezumi Roshi

The last time I was so acutely aware of an eclipse was on August 11, 1999. That morning I had been admitted to the hospital to have labor induced because I had complications and the baby was at risk. The thing is, nothing happened. The contractions never started. At the end of the day, after I’d been told that we’d start all over in the morning, I watched the news. That’s how I learned that there had been a total eclipse of the sun that day, visible mainly over Europe. To me, that explained the delay. Life seems to stand still in anticipation of a solar eclipse, and then it disappears.

You may suppose that time is only passing away and not understand that time never arrives. — Dogen Zenji

I live in my own path of totality, you see, a path I try not to veer away from. Completely engaged in the precious and fleeting rarity of my own immediate reality. Eclipsed by nothing and nowhere else. Alert and alive to the place where the rarest flower blooms. Embracing the moment that will never return: now.

This is the only place we have the power to go good and do good for others.

And that, my friends, is what brings me to tears.


  1. Yes. Thank you, Maezen.

    Comment by Julie Lambert — August 15, 2017 @ 5:37 am

  2. ❤️ “Eclipsed by nothing.”

    Comment by Ranya — August 15, 2017 @ 5:38 am

  3. Most beautiful thing I’ve read in a long while. Thank you. And thank you for the reminder of this forever unfolding miracle that is now.

    Comment by Bonnie Rae Nygren — August 15, 2017 @ 7:40 am

  4. “my own path of totality” Yes. And thank you. I’ve been hard-pressed to explain to family and friends why I am not caught up in the excitement and desire to place myself along with masses of humanity in the direct path of the solar eclipse. Your words are helpful to me. Thank you.

    Comment by Julie Griffin — August 15, 2017 @ 7:50 am

  5. The truth of which you write, that it is now, in my life the only place where I have the power to do good, brings me to tears. Thank you, Maezen.

    Comment by Katharine — August 15, 2017 @ 9:31 am

  6. Lovely.

    Comment by Theresa — August 15, 2017 @ 4:13 pm

  7. So reassuring,Thank you.

    Comment by lucy — August 16, 2017 @ 7:52 am

  8. Thank you once again for a reminder of what is important. I have just returned from weeks with my daughter, helping her with her newborn son. Holding him, watching him, that brings tears to my eyes, even as I recall it. I once stood on the side of a boat and watched a humpback whale rear up out of the ocean perpendicular to us. For a mere few seconds we made eye contact. That was a moment I will never forget.
    There is awe in each moment.


    Comment by Jude Smith — August 16, 2017 @ 10:54 am

  9. […] Maezen Miller writes in her blog post “eclipsed“: “It’s not surprising that it seems reasonable [to do something crazy] and wait for the […]

    Pingback by Carpeing the Diem: The Eclipse | Daughter on Duty — August 24, 2017 @ 8:39 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

archives by month