MTPR

Eclipses And Avalanches

Dec 19, 2017

"So much of my life is the consequence of fleeting chance and strange brews of circumstance, of pamphlets landing at my feet or of lingering in university hallways to overhear words I shouldn’t have. What’s so maddening and exhilarating about it all is that I can never tell the eclipses from the avalanches until I’m either parked on the side of the highway or buried under the snow." -- Luke Larkin

Eclipses And Avalanches

The following is a blog post  written by Luke Larkin in response to Chris Dombrowski's poem “Partial Eclipse / N 46.667 W 114.244." Luke is a student in Robert Stubblefield's  Montana Writers Live course. 

“A friend’s death had me thinking about death,” writes Chris Dombrowski in his poem “Partial Eclipse / N 46.667 W 114.244,” which begins with the tragedy of a fatal avalanche, waxes into an ethereal scene of a father comforting his daughter under a lunar eclipse, and slips away after threading the two events together in contemplation of the ephemerality of life. Tragedy and awe married in melancholic verse. It’s downright haunting, a quality I might not expect from the man who appears before our modest university class. Dombrowski sits onstage, cross-legged and beaming, and comments on his daughter’s soccer game from which he has just arrived. When asked by a student if her team won, he only says, “They played hard.”

“Partial Eclipse” draws me back to this past summer, the twenty-first of August, driving north to Missoula through Wyoming via Interstate 25. Just north of Casper, the sky darkened and dusk shrouded the horizon on every front. Cars were pulled off onto the side of the highway, two rows on each side, and passengers sat atop their roofs and stared into the black hole sun. The temporary twilight granted a chill to the air and silenced the previously chatty crowd while we watched Bailey’s Beads transition to wispy corona. Two minutes of acute awareness of our place in the universe before we braved the gridlocked highway in post-solar eclipse giddiness.

In the poem, witnessing the lunar eclipse happens entirely by chance, after the speaker is awoken by his frightened daughter. I was not beckoned to my eclipse by an alarmed voice in the night, but pulled by a series of chance encounters and unfortunate conditions. A pamphlet for a Hawaiian university, a miserable stint as a marine biology student marked by an avalanche of depression, an admired professor and her grim words after class: “I’m getting out of this damn school.” And so did I. I transferred to a mainland college and road-tripped there on a course that placed me in the path of totality.

So much of my life is the consequence of fleeting chance and strange brews of circumstance, of pamphlets landing at my feet or of lingering in university hallways to overhear words I shouldn’t have. What’s so maddening and exhilarating about it all is that I can never tell the eclipses from the avalanches until I’m either parked on the side of the highway or buried under the snow.

Luke Smith

About  the Author:  

Luke Larkin is an underclassmen studying creative writing at the University of Montana, though he hails from Denver, Colorado. When he’s not stressing over his own writing, he’s reading books he wishes he wrote.