After traveling the country for a year in the adventure wagon, Barnyard Saints Art have returned back to Martha’s Vineyard. We would like to take a moment to extend our thanks for all of the love and endless support from folks back home following our adventures, and huge thanks to The MV Times for giving us the outlet to not only keep in touch, but properly reflect on our experiences. Thank you!
I sat and watched the campfire smoke drift into the western hemlocks above. It was the most calm August I had experienced in my life. Walker stepped out of the adventure wagon with dinner to admire the sun setting through the smoke. It was the end of another perfect day in the dry season of the rainforest, Alsea Falls Campground in the middle of nowhere, Oregon. “You know,” I said, “I hope you have been soaking up every ounce of this summer. We won’t have one like this for a long time.” I imagined the August chaos of Martha’s Vineyard across the country as we sat in the twilight, owls hooting and thrushes getting in their last remarks. The next day we packed the car to head an hour to the coast. On the beach, drenched in fog, we walked toward the surf. Coast to coast, we did it. The beach was foreign and familiar all at once. We would explore fishing towns and watch the sea lions bark, talk with locals and take time in art galleries. I started to notice Walker’s homesickness when he would watch the boats come in. Born and raised on the Island, he has a tangible need for the sea, and it was then I knew it was time to bring this journey to an end.
This volunteer camp-hosting opportunity in Oregon allowed us to witness what was the most perfect finale to our journey. The total solar eclipse’s path ran right through our area. We took time at lectures to learn about the event, and scouted out locations for viewing. Once we settled on a nearby bird sanctuary, we calculated we would witness totality for 56 seconds. The woman at the library in the tiny town of Alsea gave us some eclipse glasses, while telling us she’s heard that seeing a total eclipse changes your life. We laughed then, but nothing could have prepared us.
After waking up to beat the crowds at 4 am, we hiked up into the sanctuary onto a grassy hill, the sky perfectly clear. We stretched out on a blanket and waited. Around 9 am the light started to diffuse in such a strange dreamlike manner. The only thing I can compare it to is when you are about to pass out, or being on a stage and the sun was on a dimmer. The air got colder as we watched with our glasses a shadow creep in front of the sun. Soon the fields and hills surrounding us were dotted with people, all looking up. It took some time for the moon to cross to the point of totally covering the sun; when it finally did everyone started screaming and applauding. We ripped off our glasses to gaze upon a striking hole punched into the sky casting a 360° sunset. The temperature dropped 10°, and the birds stopped, along with our hearts. The arms of the corona from the sun swirled as edges of the moon glimmered, making a ring of diamonds, an effect due to the moon’s uneven surface. I have never felt such awe over a natural phenomena, such fear and humility in my life. Tears welling up, I managed to pull it together to get one picture of the corona. Know that no camera, no matter how fancy, will do that sight justice, not even NASA’s footage following the moon’s shadow. We experienced that with our entire bodies, and it did change us.
We did have one last gift from Oregon before we left. The entire summer we had been battling mice in the trailer. We thought seriously about getting a cat, as we both desperately missed the company of animals. I didn’t think it was fair to a cat who wasn’t used to traveling, so I laid out rules. We can only get a cat if it comes to us, is a kitten in the woods that needs our help. Little did I know my rules were a manifestation that revealed itself, doubled. The day after the solar eclipse we found two tiny kittens, black as shadows, with blue eyes, under the dumpster behind the ranger shed, not 10 feet away from our trailer door. The mother was skin and bones, but quickly grew to like us as we bribed her out of hiding with food. In a few days we were able to calmly lure them into a pet carrier and bring them to an animal shelter a few towns away. The mom was adopted, and we took the two kittens. We couldn’t help but give those black kittens eclipse-themed names — Totes, short for Totality, and Umi, short for Umbra.
They would become hardy travel kittens as we made our way through Washington, where we met up with my cousin Nate and his grandparents, Cindy and John. Nate had been working his way across the country in an old Nantucket shuttle bus he converted into an RV that he bought while working on a cranberry bog on the smaller island. After we had a couple of days to take in Seattle, hands down one of my favorite cites so far, we said our goodbyes to the Pacific Northwest Coast and its people. Kittens and the adventure wagon in tow, we started to drive eastward for the first time in almost 10 months.
We are happy to report that we are back, and getting ready for a summer selling our work at local art fairs and catching up with family and friends. We remain humbled and bewildered by the course of our journey this past year. Not only are there so many places and natural wonders we were privileged to witness, the different friendships we made along the way made us realize we are not as divided as we think.
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” –Maya Angelou
Barnyard Saints Art will continue to show webisodes at Pathways Arts, and sell fine art and handmade crafts at the Artisans Fair and Chilmark Flea this summer.