Cold stone, chilling breeze
Naked flesh shivers, watching
Moon eclipse our sun
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She’ll sit, perhaps feel
Celestial alignment flux
But won’t look skyward
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“Hi, Mum! It’s Laurel Jean. What will you be doing for the eclipse today?”
“Oh, I dunno. I won’t be looking at it, that’s for sure. I can watch it on T.V.”
Mum is more than halfway beyond her 88th year and is having trouble with her vision. I want to tell her to go ahead and take a peak, but I don’t.
She made a decision several months ago to move into an assisted living home a stone’s throw from where my younger sister lives, a decision all five of us daughters appreciate.
“The kids are gone for a few days,” she tells me. “Isn’t it wonderful they can do that now and not have to worry about me?”
I agree it’s a wonderful thing.
“You should at least go outside and sit while it’s happening,” I suggest. “You don’t have to look at it. Just feel it.”
“I suppose I could do that,” she agrees. “I could sit in one of the chairs on the porch.”
I tell her I’ll check in later.
I don’t tell her what I’m about to do.
At 10:30 a.m. I pick up my friend Elise and the two of us drive way up toward Mosquito Pass on a road that gives my old 4-Runner a workout.
“Oh! There are lots of people up here,” Elise comments as we continue our slow, upward crawl. “I guess that makes sense.”
It makes perfect sense to me. What better place to witness a solar eclipse than way up high on a mountain in Colorado?
“Don’t worry about it. I’m not shy,” I tell her, and she laughs.
Along with being a friend, Elise is the photographer for a calendar project I’m working on to raise funds for the restoration and preservation of the historic Tabor Opera House in Leadville: the 2018 Calendar Girls of Leadville. One of our models suggested our motto could be “Leadville Antiques: Uncovered” because all of the women in the calendar are age 50 and older . . . and in the spirit of the original 2003 film Calendar Girls, we’ve all agreed to be photographed tastefully “uncovered.”
Although the common rule for something to be considered antique is that it be 100 years or older, according to an article in mentalfloss.com, “An exception to this rule is cars and other items that are subject to frequent wear—they can be called antique when they are over 25 years old.”
All my volunteer models have agreed that they’ve been subject to frequent wear, so splitting the difference between 25 and 100 gave us our new 50-year antique designation.
So why am I driving up this gnarly road with my photographer?
Just yesterday, my friend Char asked, “Are you doing an eclipse photo shoot for the calendar?” And then she saw my eyes grow wide. I hadn’t even considered it. And I can’t believe I hadn’t even considered it. But who could I convince with less than a day’s notice to get naked outside during the much-heralded eclipse?
After a few failed phone calls, I knew it had to be me. Suddenly, I wanted it to be me.
Elise spots a pull-off far enough away and between two other groups of eclipse watchers and we head across a field toward a large, lichen-covered boulder. It’s perfect.
I drop my clothes, don my approved eclipse-watching eye protection, grab my diaphanous silk scarf and climb atop the boulder.
The boulder is cold.
The breeze way up high on a mountain on a cold boulder under an eclipsing sun is cold.
But I’m on fire.
I’m doing something I’ve never done before, and it makes me giddy.
I’m a naked antique woman experiencing a total solar eclipse in a way I’d never imagined. Though the fingernail of sun is still bright around the edge of the moon, I feel the temperature drop when I liberate my body from my sheer prop.
“Beautiful!” Elise encourages me as I turn, catching the chilling breeze in flutters of sunset-colored silk.
Elise suggests various compositions and I comply as the moon stealthily steals what little warmth the sun might offer. We laugh with each new pose I make.
“You haven’t lived till you’ve had lichen scratch your butt,” I comment. “Not sure I’m liken this!” It’s a goofy pun, but it helps release me from sudden self-consciousness.
If it’s possible, Elise is as stunned and elated as I am about what we’re doing.
“This is crazy,” I say, “and exciting, and . . . it’s probably illegal . . . but it just seems so right, right?” I’m pretty sure the other groups of people on either side of us can’t clearly see what’s happening on the cold boulder, but they probably have a good idea. My scarf is hard to miss, and although the eclipse is what they’re there for, they might make out an occasional full moon.
“When people see my work, I want them to feel joy,” Elise tells me as she snaps photo after photo, and I am filled with happiness. This is joy.
The thrill of baring all keeps the fire burning in my soul even while goosebumps cover my body. I want the movement of the celestial bodies to slow down, to appreciate what’s happening on the tiny planet and all the tiny specs upon it below, perhaps even to acknowledge me somehow. But that’s just ridiculous, and I know it.
I feel special and beautiful and just a spec naughty, and this satisfies me.
We’re just about done when I hear a jeep making its way up the road between us and the group down the hill.
“OH! My GOD!” a man’s voice carries across the field as I wrap my scarf around me and sit on the scratchy boulder.
I wonder if the jeep will stop. I wonder if I’ll be arrested. But the jeep continues its crawl up the road, and we laugh again. I’m pretty sure I’ve just made someone’s day.
I have a feeling Elise wants to experience the pure delight and freedom I’ve just experienced.
“I could take photos of you . . .”
And so I do, and they’re joyful.
We complete the photo shoot but don’t want to leave right away. Everyone has left the mountain, even the wind gods, and it’s quiet. We laugh some more and thank one another for our friendship and the experience.
“We’re all part of this . . . the eclipse dust, the lichen bones . . .” I know I sound like a hippy, but I don’t mind. I tell Elise how insignificant I’d felt standing under the star-spangled, Milky-Way-splashed sky the night of my son Nick’s 100-mile mountain race just two nights prior.
“But we’re not insignificant,” she corrects me. “We’re a part of all of that too.”
This eclipse is history. We drive back down the mountain to work and home and rain clouds approaching. We have photos we might use for the calendar project and memories of a special event made that much more memorable because of how we chose to experience it. *
I call Mum after I take a hot shower to remove the chill in my bones and the lichen from my butt.
“So?” I ask. “Did you go outside?”
She tells me she did, and she felt the temperature drop. I tell her what I’ve just done and she laughs. Even more, she understands why I did it and why I’m still giddy.
“You know,” she confesses, “when I was about twenty-two, my best friend Ginger Gray and I took pin-up girl photos of each other for our husbands. I looked pretty good back then.”
“You still look pretty good, Mum! And I love you.”
“I love you too, my darlin’ girl, to the stars and back.”
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* Every photo shoot we’ve done for this calendar project has been joyful because the women who have volunteered to bare more than their souls for it have brought with them their feisty, fun-loving spirits. I hope all my readers will order multiple copies of the 2018 Calendar Girls of Leadville calendar when they’re ready. All net proceeds will be donated to the Tabor Opera House Preservation Foundation.
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If you like my writing, you might enjoy my books! Check them out here, and thank you!
You might also enjoy my story about how “the girls” were used to thwart an international incident: Battle-Dressed Breasts