March 26, 2024

Preparing for a Solar Eclipse

Sky & Telescope / Dennis Di Cicco
Sky & Telescope / Dennis Di Cicco / 2017

It will probably be cloudy here, because it’s March in the NY Finger Lakes. Still, on the off chance we have a clear day, I prepare for the solar eclipse. My home is near the Path of Totality. Even if clouds are thick and I can’t see details, I’ll probably experience a noticeable change in the light.

“Have you read Annie Dillard’s essay “Total Eclipse” a local friend Tim asks. It’s in her book The Abundance.”  Tim is a generous man who lives near the lake with his cats.

“I’ve never read it,” I respond, “but I found a pdf on line.”

“I like to turn pages,” he writes.

“So do I. There’s something about the feel of a book in my hands.”

“Then I’ll lend you my copy and deliver it.” When I return from the grocery store the next afternoon, the book is leaning against the front door on my porch. It’s a neighborly rural gesture, a community building gesture.

This morning, I thank Tim in a Facebook message. “All I need now is eclipse glasses,” I add. It’s a fact, not a request.

“The E.B. Pert Library has them for free. It’s at the Valois-Hector-Logan Firehouse. Check their hours,” he writes.









I look on line for the library hours and find limited hours, but it’s open this morning. I feel like a traitor because I rarely use this library only five miles from my home. Instead, I opt for the larger library in Watkins Glen, NY.

“We’re open until noon,” the volunteer librarian says when I call at nine. “We have plenty of eclipse glasses and you can pick up as many as you need and take them home.”

At the library, I get glasses for myself, my son, and his girlfriend. The ease of this transaction reminds me of the sweetness of rural living. Since this small library has many children’s programs and a section devoted to children’s books, it’s a perfect place for my friend’s new book Lucy’s Lopsided Web. The library is warm and well-lit with comfortable chairs, polished wooden tables, and windows  overlooking Seneca Lake. I promise myself to come here more often.

“Would you be interested in a charming children’s book with a great message written by Sarah Ragsdale?” I ask the kind volunteer. “I would love to donate a copy to the library.”

“Yes, please do,” the librarian says with an enthusiastic smile. “We’re always grateful for new children’s books.”

I leave with three pair of equinox glasses and return later to drop off a copy of Lucy’s Lopsided Web for the children’s collection. I love sharing this sweet book about a spider who learns she doesn’t have to be perfect to create beauty. Lucy’s lesson is something I need to learn myself.


Do you borrow books from your local library? How else do you support your library? We have many library choices in the small towns along Seneca Lake from Ovid to Watkins Glen, all with programs for kids and adults.  I’ve done book readings for my book Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief at a few and introduced children to Monarch butterflies last summer in at the library in Lodi, NY. Libraries need our support.

You might enjoy an article comparing the path of the solar equinox in 2017 to the eclipse in 2024.


  1. April 2, 2024 at 7:29 am

    Aladin Fazel


    Hello, dear Elaine. I apologize for not responding sooner. I just wanted to say hello and send my regards. After returning from our trip to Southern Germany, we were very busy with grandchildren and celebrating the Easter fiesta by finding painted or chocolate eggs in the garden (the children love that!) and eating Persian speciality food together. Nevertheless, as I see, you had a wonderful Easter with Solar Eclipse and a good read with good company. I hope you have had a lovely holiday and wish you all the best.

    1. April 6, 2024 at 1:24 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      No apologies needed, dear Aladin. I haven’t spent time reading your latest posts because my mind is confused by illness. The good news is I have a diagnosis (low iron levels) and this won’t be a permanent condition. I don’t like feeling confused, but it’s forced a long rest. The total solar eclipse is on April 8, so I’ll hope I have enough energy to drive north with my friends to see the Totality. They’ll drive. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, so I hate to miss it. With prayers for peace in our raging world.

  2. March 28, 2024 at 2:22 pm

    Deborah Gregory


    Easter Blessings dear Elaine! What a wonderful friend you have in Tim, your little story did make me smile. I haven’t read Annie Dillard’s essay (yet) but I will certainly look for it online during our spring break. I’m intrigued now! Looking forward to seeing a few shots (if that’s possible) of your full solar eclipse. It’s going to be ever so partial here in the UK, in comparison to your neck of the woods, but I’m sure we’ll look out if skies are clear that day

    Although I no longer use our local library, I hold fond memories of my village one. It was a truly magical place, a safe haven, filled with stories and picture books and poetry collections. I was a regular visitor too after moving at eighteen to a new town. Yet at some point in my twenties when I started earning more, I began buying books instead of borrowing them, especially poetry books which I started collecting. Such happy memories! Love and light, Deborah.

    1. March 29, 2024 at 11:52 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      There are many nice and generous people in my community and Tim is one of them. Even if it’s cloudy, the sky should become quite dark by mid afternoon on eclipse day. My son Anthony has friends coming from New York City to view the eclipse, so I suggested he go down to the library to get eclipse glasses for everyone.

      I borrow books first (usually) and if I love the book, I often buy a copy to read a second time and keep on the shelf. The latest example of that was Margaret Renkl’s ‘The Comfort of Crows.’ I have too many books and have given boxes of them to book sales since Vic’s death–and they seem to be procreating on the shelves. I truly need to stop buying books, but they’re a sweet pleasure, so I probably won’t stop. I’ll just scold myself.

      I loved the photo of where you live and your white bicycle. What an intimate relationship you have with the sea. Love and light to you as you take a break from your usual schedule. I’m taking a break, too, out of necessity, but hope I get the energy to return to considering my relationship with Monarch butterflies. Spring blessings and bright colors to you, dear friend.

      1. March 29, 2024 at 12:53 pm

        Deborah Gregory


        I ab-soul-utely love books, a sweet pleasure indeed! They are my favourite gift, whether I give or receive them. I’ve donated hundreds to friends, clients, students, and numerous charities over the years. I did try reading e-books when they first started appearing but nothing beats the feel of a paperback in my hands!

        Saying that, I found an audio version of Annie Dillard’s essay online this morning and listened. It was wonderful, so mesmerising! I could picture it all, the clown picture, them scrambling up and down the hill, and of course the eclipse.

        Enjoy your spring break Mama Monarch, may you find rest and recover the energy needed to return to your beloved heart flutterers later in the year.

        1. April 6, 2024 at 1:17 pm

          Elaine Mansfield


          My focus has been on my health mystery, but it seems to come down to prolonged anemia and I’m now getting a clearer diagnosis and healing plan. It takes time to rebuild the red blood cells, as much as 3 months, but I’m feeling an increase in energy and hope after being on a program to increase iron levels for less than a month. It’s been cold here with April snow and it’s hard to breathe cold air when anemia already causes shortness of breath, but that will change as warmth increases in the next few days. It’s been amazing to see how much anemia symptoms overlap with Meniere’s Disease symptoms, confusing the issue of what was going on.

          I have an invitation to go with friends to view the solar eclipse. It’s 99.5 total here, but 100% total by driving about an hour. (They’ll drive.) Annie Dillard’s essay encourages me to try to see the total eclipse because there’s a huge difference between 95% and 100%. It will be a warmer day and I’m tempted because if fatigue gets me, I can rest in their car. They want to view at a friend’s farm where there won’t be a crowd or lots of traffic. This sounds wise. My spring break continues. I hope yours is healing and full of new poems. My brain doesn’t have many ideas and that’s another symptom of low iron. Sending love and prayers for peace.

  3. March 28, 2024 at 2:01 pm

    Lin Gregory


    What a wonderful community you have around you Elaine – it’s something that is becoming rarer in the western world, although in our road neighbours do tend to look out for each other, more so since the pandemic. I have to admit I don’t use the local library very much – I have so many books already in a ‘to read’ pile that I don’t have time for other books at the moment.

    This solar eclipse is partial in our part of the world and then only visible from the north of England. The last full solar eclipse I witnessed was back in 1999 – I was working in an office in a more rural town and we all downed tools and went outside to view it. It was very strange as the land went dark for some time and the birds that were singing in the trees at the nearby park stopped – there was a total eerie silence, quite amazing. Our next full one isn’t until 2081 so I don’t think I’ll be seeing another one!! Wishing you a very happy Easter and here’s hoping the sky stays clear for your eclipse.

    1. March 29, 2024 at 11:41 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      There is a strong community here. We even have our own Facebook page to report missing cats and dogs and local farmer’s markets and other community services. My son was elected to the Town Council, so that makes me feel more connected. Our philosophic library and meditation center is also here and the Dalai Lama visited twice–the first visit in 1979. I’m rooted.

      I saw a partial or total eclipse when I was a child in the mid 1950s but mostly remember making a viewing box. I got a strong sense of the eerie dark silence from reading Annie Dillard’s essay. I wish you and Lin a blessed Easter with many flowers. We’re having a late cool spring here, but the April forecast looks warmer. We’ll have crocuses and a few daffodils for Easter. Wishing you well as you take time for introversion. I’m still focused on getting well and we’ve figured out I’m quite anemic which has a compounding effect with Meniere’s Disease. It takes a few months for the red blood cells to stock back up on iron and I have a good supplement so the process has begun. This is a problem with a longterm vegetarian diet (since 1970). At least I know what’s wrong and what to do about it. Love to you across the ocean and over the tree tops.

  4. March 26, 2024 at 9:07 pm

    Marian Beaman


    YES, I use our local library all the time. When I enter to check out books I’ve put on hold, staff at the circulation desk give me a knowing smile. They know I’m a writer too because I’ve donated both my memoirs to the library.

    And, Elaine, I just love that your library hands out eclipse glasses. What fun! And, I too, have enjoyed Annie Dillard, especially Teaching Stones to Talk. Now I want to see if our library has a copy of The Abundance. Thanks for the inspiration here! 😀

    1. March 29, 2024 at 11:02 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      I’ve donated my book to local libraries, too, and also to local fundraisers for various causes. I’m glad this inspired you. There’s some chance we’ll have a clear day for the eclipse, but the forecast keeps changing, so I’ll just have to wait and see. I’m ready and enthusiastic.

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