Eclipsing the Eclipse

They said that it was the greatest show under the sun. The solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, billed as the Eclipse of the Century or also referred as the Great American Eclipse was visible within a band across the entire United States. The last solar eclipse that was seen across the contiguous United States was in 1918.

Where I live now, which is in Central Iowa, we only have partial eclipse, but it is still 95% cover. But if I want to see a total solar eclipse, all I need to do is drive about two hours west, or two hours south of me, and I will be in that narrow band of total solar eclipse path. Two hours travel is nothing. When I was still in Manila, it takes two hours just to cross EDSA.

There were places that I know that advertised their town or city as “the destination” for the best viewing area for the total eclipse. Their hotels were fully booked months before the event. I know some friends of mine tried to book a hotel on these popular places but were not able. Though they were still able to find hotels in smaller towns nearby.

In one place, they made their city parks and regional airport as the designated viewing place, but you have to reserve a spot for parking weeks before the event as they expect a wave of visitors. Of course there’s a fee involved. In another place, it was a military base that they assigned to welcome eclipse travelers, but again you need to reserve a slot there. Perhaps all the streets in these prime towns and cities suddenly have parking meters.

Even several weeks before the solar eclipse, I already knew that I am not working that day. It’s because I would be on-call the weekend before, so I am off that Monday. Thus I considered going to those prime viewing places. However, I learned that by that time, summer vacation is over and my children will be back in school already, and so I did not make any early plans.

As the event got nearer, and the hype for the eclipse got hotter, I thought that maybe we don’t even need to stay overnight in those choice places. I could easily drive early morning that day as it is just 2 hours away from us, and the time of the solar eclipse is not until around noontime anyway. And even if I have not made any parking reservation in those viewing areas, I thought I could just park in their town’s Wal-Mart.

Few days before the eclipse, I still have not procured the recommended glasses which is needed to safely view the solar eclipse. I tried to look for the certified eclipse glasses in the stores around our area, but all of them have sold out. I want to see the solar eclipse but I also don’t want to go blind. It was really poor planning on my part.

The weekend of my duty came. I worked and was on-call for an ungodly long time of almost 60 hours straight. Besides being so busy it was depressing too. In one stretch of time, we even had a string of deaths in the ICU that Sunday. I was just glad it’s over.

Solar eclipse by the way, for the superstitious, is regarded as an evil omen. The word “eclipse” comes from the Greek word “ekleipsis,” which means “an abandonment.” Thus it is not a surprise that civilizations throughout history associate it for bad things to happen.

Come Monday, the day of the eclipse, I was awakened by lightning and thunderstorm. I checked on the weather and found out that it will be raining the whole day in our area. Rats! So much for viewing the solar eclipse.

I also checked on those areas where I initially planned on driving to see the totality of the eclipse, and the weather forecast there was cloudy too for the whole day. Suddenly I felt bad for those people who made such elaborate arrangements and plans to view the solar eclipse, only to be disappointed by the cloudy weather.

I end up just visiting my daughter in her university which is also two-hour drive away. But it was north of us and going farther away from the band of the total solar eclipse path. I reasoned, If I’m not able to see the total eclipse due to the weather, at least I’m seeing my daughter.

When we arrived at the university, it was cloudy there too. The university have even arranged an eclipse viewing party. Outside the university campus, in the town center, there were also lots of kids and their parents gathered outside the public library with their lounge chairs and eclipse glasses. But all were disappointed, as the sun can be barely seen due to the cloudy skies.

Below is the best we were able to get a glimpse of the solar eclipse:

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The greatest show on earth was covered not by the moon shadow. But by the dark rain clouds. The eclipse was eclipsed! What a bummer!

Clouds are part of our lives here on earth. And so are disappointments. We can make all the elaborate plans for the future. But there is always that element of unknown that is beyond our control. All we can do is make the best of the situation.

It was still cloudy when we got back home. It even rained some more. But as the sun was about to set, this showed up in the sky:

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Sometimes, those rain clouds that disappoint us can also give us unexpected joy.

 

(*photos taken with iPhone)

Raindrops

One dreary morning,

I was slowly traveling,

The world I cannot see,

For everything was blurry.

                             I turned the wipers on,

                             Yet the haziness remain,

                             For it was not the rain,

                             It was my tears and my pain.

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(*This poem is brought to you by ibuprofen. My body aches again. Damn that volleyball!)

(**photo taken with an iPhone)

Christmas 2015

We are experiencing a seasonably warm December right now. In fact we have more rain than snow this month, that we had flooding in downtown Des Moines these past couple of weeks. Yesterday it felt weird that we even had a thunderstorm, with lightnings and pouring rain this late in the year. Is this Iowa winter?

Come to think of it, if it has been cold enough, with all this moisture in our area, this could all be snow!

I know it’s not just here in the Midwest that we are experiencing the relatively warm weather, but also in other parts of the US. Some friends of ours in New York City even posted in Facebook that it was 70º F today there. I guess there will be no snow in Central Park this Christmas.

Experts said that it is El Niño, the periodic warming of the equatorial eastern Pacific Ocean, accounting for this phenomenon. Or is this global warming?

It’s not that I am complaining, for I’ll rather have a warm day than freeze, but my children have been wishing for snow for Christmas, just like the song “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.” And they may not be the only ones who are praying for snow.

Then today, on this Christmas eve, it came. Santa Claus? No. Snow!

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We will have white Christmas after all.

From our family to yours, may you have a Merry Christmas!

(*photo taken with an iPhone)

 

Chasing Rainbows

I went out this morning to run. Just before I head out the door, I checked the weather forecast on my phone and it was a balmy 70º F. That’s kind of warm for an early May morning where it usually in the 40-50’sº.

The forecast also called for 60% chance of rain at that time, and 80% chance in the next hour. But I still took my chances. And ran.

Besides the sun was shining. At least partly.

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And on the other side of the horizon, there were nimbus clouds. In other words, rain clouds. Nothing scary though. No lightning flashing. No thunder rolling. No tornadoes forming.

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Have you heard of the avid suitor who said: “I’ll give you the moon and the stars if you asked me, my love. And I’ll come back tomorrow night. If it does not rain.” Such a fickle dedication.

But not me. It takes more than nimbus clouds to intimidate me.

Not long after I started my run, the rain came. These meteorologists were really accurate in their weather forecasting!

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see the rain drops in the water?

Anyway, it was light rain only. I am water-proof. My dedication is water-proof. Even my running apparel are water-wicking. I would be alright.

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The rain may have dampened the road, but not my spirit. I’ll just sing “I do my running in the rain.”

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At least this lonely gravel road would not be so dusty. Not muddy. But the rain moistened it just enough that I would not be eating billows of dust if ever a lost car pass by me.

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The rain did not really get more than a pitter-patter. And I finished my run without really getting soaked. Though I still broke out a sweat.

Would I catch pneumonia. Nah!

But I caught this.

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full arc rainbow

If the looming clouds deterred me from going out, I would have missed the rainbow.

Just like in life. Sometimes we need to go out of our comfort zones. Take our chances even if the odds is against us. And chase our rainbows.

Maybe next time I would also catch the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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(photos taken with an iPhone)

 

 

Soaked from the Rain

During my recent short stint (only 7 days) in the Philippines, I have experienced once again the heavy rain showers of Manila. There were no typhoons, just run-of-the-mill soaking monsoon rains of the tropics.

In one instance while I was there, the heavy rains have caused flooding in Metro Manila that traffic crawled to a halt. I even heard in the evening news that my alma mater, University of Santo Tomas, was forced to close the school due to high floods in España. This brought a flood of memories as well, of my wading days in “water world” of Manila.

Our family have also experienced another type of rain. Rain that just not soak us wet but can bring us down to our knees. Yet these rains if we survive them, can make us strong.

I went home because my mother was not doing well. At one point she was even knocking on heaven’s doors.

I spent most of my stay in the Philippines inside the hospital, University of the East Ramon Magsaysay (UERM), where my mother was admitted. In fact, I slept a couple of nights in the hospital not as a doctor-on-call, but as a “bantay” or watcher of a patient. My mother must have appreciated that she have me as her bantay, not because I am a doctor, and an ICU specialist at that, but more so, that I was there as her son.

The system in the Philippines is kind of different that all patients have a family member, as a watcher, to attend to the patient’s need while they are in the hospital. In the US, rarely any patient have a watcher. They have a call light to summon the nurse if they need something. That’s it. No wonder, patients feel all alone.

One day while I was the watcher in the hospital, I went out to SM Santa Mesa mall, which was a couple of blocks away from UERM, to get lunch, as I was getting tired of the food from the hospital cafeteria. I have nothing against hospital food though.

Then it rained. Heavy downpour.

I got stranded at a waiting shed near SM during the rainfall. Of course I did not bring an umbrella. I think an umbrela will be useless in that heavy downpour anyway.

I was waiting for the rain to lighten up. But as I looked up in the sky it was getting even darker, and I may be waiting there for a long, long time. I knew I needed to get back to the hospital.

So I decided to run in the rain in full abandon.

I got wet. Though not really drenched. But to me the rain was refreshing as it cooled me off and washed away some of the afternoon heat.  It also helped clear my mind and realize what my real priorities in life were. Not getting wet was not one of them. Besides, why are we afraid to get soaked from the rain anyway?

We may prefer eternal blue skies and beautiful summer days. We don’t like the rain to spoil our fun. We don’t like the rain to wet our beautiful outfit. We don’t like the rain to ruin our perfect plans.

Yet, rain and clouds are part of our lives. I don’t mean just the weather.

I am back in Iowa now. And we are also getting unseasonable lots of rain here. We have plenty of rain that the grass here are still so green even if it’s almost end of summer. Usually by this time of year here, the grass has started to turn brown. But I’m not complaining.

This morning, I finally came out to run after fighting jet-lag for several days. I was trying to put back on track my training for the half marathon which is not too long from now, since my training was temporarily derailed by my emergent and unscheduled trip to the Philippines.

As I came out, the road was wet from the heavy rain last night. I have noticed thousands of earthworms scattered in the paved road. Why earthworms go out after the rain is not really clear. Some experts say the rain drive them out of their burrows so they will not drown, while other experts refute this, as earthworms don’t drown, and they can live totally submerged in water for few days.

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earthworms out after the rain

In any case, these earthworms who are now on the road, will die and will get baked in the heat of the sun, unless they get back to the soil in time. Are they afraid to get soaked from the rain too? But trying to run away from getting soaked put them more in harm’s way.

While I was running, the dark rain clouds gathered around above me again, taunting to pour down its contents.

I’m not an earthworm. And I’m not afraid of the rain anymore.

Let it pour.

*******

(*photo taken in our neighborhood, with an iPhone)

 

 

 

 

Fire and Rain

The past several weeks has been a roller coaster ride of emotions for me and my family. First was shock. Followed by joy. Next came more shock. Then grief. (see previous post)

In the few days that followed after our painful loss, a friend of mine asked me if we should cancel the camping for the boys that has been planned for a while, before all the unexpected turn of events had happened. He told me that maybe our family needs to spend time alone in our mourning.

So I asked my wife about this, but she was quick and firm to say that the plans for the boy’s outing should push through. She added that she will be fine while I am away. Besides, my son, who was really looking forward to this trip will be very disappointed if the camping will be postponed.

Yes we grieve for our loss, but we should also continue to celebrate life. For life should go on. No, life MUST go on. I tell you that life can be like butterfly wings: beautiful, yet can be delicate and fragile. But there’s nothing more resilient and tenacious than the human spirit.

Thus me and my son, together with our friends – another father and son team, headed to a lake-side camp and spent two days in the wild. Well it was not really the wild, for we slept in a cabin, that has heat, air-conditioning and even a refrigerator. There were two bunk beds, spacious enough for the four of us. By the way, this trip was only for the boys, but in a few weeks, our whole family, together with other families, will go for a “real” camping, that is sleeping in tents.

One of the main activity in the camp was building a fire. We enjoyed gathering firewood and sticks and starting our own fire like skilled boy scouts. OK, OK, we cheated. We brought lighter and wood fire starter, so it was no sweat at all. We spent hours and hours sitting around the campfire and staring at the fire. We burned woods, sticks, barks, leaves, paper, plastic, paper plates – basically anything we can find to burn. A little open fire brings out the pyromaniac in anybody.

Of course we cooked our meal too in the fire: hotdogs and marshmallows! What is camping without hotdogs and s’mores? We could have sung “Kumbaya” as well, but we’re too busy munching on our “perfectly” cooked food. Well for assurance, just in case we cannot start a fire, my wife did not let us leave without bringing chicken adobo and cooked rice. So we are not really left alone in the wild to fend for ourselves and survive without provisions.

During the early evening, angry rain clouds with gutsy winds came over. Rain fell over our campgrounds . But the rain did not extinguish our fire nor did it dampen our spirits. The rainfall did not spoil our fun, it just made the night more interesting. My son and his friend grab the umbrellas (yes, we even had umbrellas!) and frolic and dance around the fire. It was a mix of Native American fire dance and Gene Kelly’s Singin’ in the Rain. Minutes later, the clouds rolled away, and the twinkling stars appeared up in the sky.

This experience just reminded me that in life, even when the winds blow and rain pours, if we just hold on for a little longer and keep our flame burning, we will make it through, and we will see the stars again.

We also spent at least a couple of hours biking (we did hauled our bikes along) around the lake which has a nice bike trail, a loop of about 6-7 miles. Along the trail there was a covered bridge, an old round barn, farmlands, parks, beautiful lake-side houses, and of course the lake. It was certainly a scenic bike ride. Halfway through the trail, there was even a cozy diner that serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. So we were far from starving at all!

We did not do any water activity like fishing, kayaking or swimming as it was still too cold for the season. There are many pictures hanging on the wall of the cozy diner exhibiting photos of people showing off their prized catch from the lake, indicating that this place is a prime location for fishing. Maybe we will do that when we return some other time, so we will have big fish stories to brag about. Or should I say “fishy” stories.

As we were going home, I asked my son if he enjoyed our trip. He gave me a wide grin. I don’t need to ask more.

Life indeed continues.

Waiting for the Rainbow

One afternoon, a  few days ago, we had some strong summer rains in our area. Even though “rainy days and Mondays” (as Karen Carpenter sang) can bring some people down, but in this instance, it was a welcome respite to the several weeks of sweltering Iowa heat.

When the rain started to taper down and the sun began to peek again through the rain clouds, my wife told my kids, to look out for the appearance of the glorious but ephemeral rainbow. I could have also told them that a ‘tikbalang’ (half-man half-horse creature) was getting married whenever it is simultaneously raining and the sun is shining, as I was told when I was a child, but I let it pass.

My children then asked us if they can go outside in the rain with their umbrellas and wait for the showing of the rainbow. Since there was no lighting and thunder, we let them out. At least they asked permission. If they asked permission to take a shower in the rain, I could have permitted them too, as every kid needs to experience that, at least once in their lifetime. I don’t believe in catching pneumonia when you get soaked in the rain. Just don’t catch the lightning.

So my kids grab their umbrellas and went out in the rain. My son even brought out his camping chair and parked it in the middle of the driveway. And while they waited for the much-anticipated rainbow, they frolicked, jumped in the puddles, danced and twirled their umbrellas under the rain.

my kids playing in the rain, while waiting for the rainbow

Long moments passed, and the rain continued to pitter-patter, while the sun never appeared more than a peep, until it totally disappeared behind the hills. And the rainbow? It never showed. As well as the legendary pot of gold in its end.

When I called my kids to come in as it was getting dark, they did not seem too disappointed, even if the awaited rainbow was a no-show. And it did not appear that the rain dampened their spirits, though it dampened their hair and clothes. It dampened our floors too, when my kids entered in.

Sometimes, we don’t need to see the rainbow to experience joy. We just have to appreciate the rain.

“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow