Brown Trout, Zen Trout

Brown Trout, Zen Trout

By Rachelle D. Lawrence


I was standing alone on Raincrow Lake when the all lights went out. 11:34 am. Totality was here.

Three days before the solar eclipse, my husband, two-year old son, and I had travelled five hours by car to get to Ashton, ID—cousins and in-laws and friends and friends of friends trickling in behind us until our bodies alone were enough to heat the entire three-story cabin through the cold summer nights.

During the day I sat outside in the rocking chair, reading Matsuo Basho’s Oku no Hosomichi and reliving my Tohoku years in haiku.

Two hours before totality, lawn chairs and kitchen barstools were carried outside with Costco muffins and lemonade. Paper glasses and solar filters were passed around, the telescope set up, and the 2017 USA Solar Eclipse Party began.

We watched the moon eat the sun.

The dog, a handsome chocolate Labrador that was more puppy than dog, curled up under the trees into a ball and refused to wake up as the sky grew darker. The kids tried putting a pair of paper glasses on him, but the dog-puppy did not open his eyes, did not join the party. The sun became a crescent. The leave’s shadows splayed crescents across the sleeping dog, spilling crescent sun shadows onto the rocks and tumbleweeds.

As totality approached the air became cool, the horizon taking on an orange-sunset blush. It felt wrong. I felt creeping panic. Even as my mind tracked the minutes and seconds, every atom of my body squirmed with the wrongness of it all. The sun was almost at its zenith, and yet it was growing darker.

Everything was grainy, like a bad TV connection.

I left the 2017 USA Solar Eclipse Party. I left my husband and two-year old son seven minutes before totality. I walked past the cabin out to the lake. The crickets and frogs were chirping on the bank while the trout plucked flies, breaking the lake’s surface PLOP! expanding ripples.

11:34 am.

I took off the paper glasses. The sun was gone. The moon was a dark circle haloed, the sunlight sneaking around moon-mountains like so many tendrils of fire.

Totality is only a minute and a half long, I thought. The thought burned up at least three precious seconds.

I have to stop time.


Then I have to capture time.

I took out my phone and started recording. But the screen showed only a pale reflection, none of the vibrant horizon or the celestial struggle of moon and sun.

I put my phone away and tried mentally recording every detail, burning the image into my mind. Time was almost up. No matter how much time I would have later to remember this moment, I had no time to record, to observe, to list the details.

Then I grasped, for the first time, Basho’s truth.

“To say more is sacrilege. Forbidden to speak, put down the brush, respect Shinto rites. Later, back with Master Egaku, we wrote poems on the Three Holy Mountains.”

With a baker’s dozen of seconds left, I closed my eyes, and breathed.

I hear nothing. The fish have stopped biting. The lake is still. Have the trout fallen asleep? I don’t think so. I think, like Basho, they are fully in the moment without thought, without action. The poems would come later KATSU! when the lights turned back on.