In a moment when the world was so focused on “Don’t look up!” that, as a result, it was seeing nothing at all, this photographer noticed and grabbed the reliable AE-1 with whatever was already loaded.
People sometimes make pinhole cameras, which are touted as a way to “watch a solar eclipse” without frying one’s eyeballs, without sautéeing a little brain. Some literal-minded schoolkids (we confess) found it anti-climactic compared to the excitement that precedes these rare and, somehow, primal events. And now, as an adult with lowered expectations? It’s a pocket-sized shadow play of the tempting real deal that’s happening just behind and over our shoulder.
The weathered, old farmhouse stood in a small cluster of trees too humble to call an oasis, though it felt like one. A few dozen acres of alfalfa lay to the left of it, and a million square miles of raw, never-broken desert stretched far to the right and dead ahead. This was borax country.
The farmhouse residents filled the cistern and deep-watered the trees weekly from a rusty-but-trusty behemoth of a leftover irrigation pump. When they pulled the power lever, something deep in the stomach clenched and for a split-moment the nearby power grid gathered itself. With a loud crack and a building whine, cold, clear water geysered out of the 12″ pipe. It was so powerful, they had to run off with shovel in hand to ensure the ditch didn’t break and flood the house. Plus, it was fun to follow the water, barefoot, cool up to the knees in the middle of the Mojave.
In the harshest environments, it is not possible to ignore the underpinnings to life as we know it. That weekly chore kept the trees alive and the livability meter somewhere between “Bearable” and “Ask Me After Sundown.”
The position of the eclipsed sun conspired with every twig and leaf to make a million tiny gaps between them into a million pinhole cameras, each aimed at the house’s stained, bitten, and blighted clapboards. The dark trunks and larger twigs are overlaid with clusters of light-crescents, countless real-time images of the eclipsed sun at the moment the photo was taken.