China – Eclipse Day

Posted by Ted on Jul 21, 2009 in Travel

Another truism about pilgrimages is that one never knows what lessons they will learn along the way. A few that we learn again and again are to forego expectation, meet setbacks with creativity and grace, and to be content with what one is given.

We woke early this morning to an overcast sky. We ate a leisurely breakfast of congee, hard boiled eggs, and steamed buns, and walked out to the 100 Step Beach, and then along a beautiful walkway down to the southern tip of the island to the foot of the 33-meter high statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy to whom the island is devoted.

There was quite a crowd gathered in anticipation, wearing sun viewing glasses and burning large amounts of incense. We hooked up with a fellow eclipse-chaser from California and his family, and joined the assembled in sharing the special moment in a place of spiritual significance and serene beauty. The clouds remained thick, but allowed the occasional glimpse of a blazing crescent. Totality itself was completely obscured, but was no less magical. The world turned truly dark as night, the Bodhisattva illuminated from below. True to Chinese mythology, a Dragon came and ate the sun, only to be scared away by the beats of drums. While it may have been the longest eclipse of the century, the five and a half minutes were over all too quickly, and the world brightened again. While we saw none of the totality, the experience was well worth the expense and effort.

Afterwards, we explored the temple and monastary, relaxing and enjoying the ocean breeze. We walked back up the eastern path, past the purple bamboo forest, and stopped for lunch just as the first torential rain of the day fell outside. When it abated, we left and walked through the grounds surrounding Puji Temple and to the local hospital where we barely negotiated the prescribing of Chinese herbs to help with my insomnia, only to get stuck waiting out another torrent of rain.

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An adventurer at heart, Ted Beatie is at his happiest when he’s off the beaten path. His deepest passion is sharing the world through photography and writing, found at The Pocket Explorer. He is also managing editor for Rolf Potts' Vagabonding, where he curates a Case Study series. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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