Eclipse 2024 in Vermont

two pairs of legs and feet of people laying down next to each other, feet, one in hiking shoes and one in boots. There is a pond viewable in the background
I wasn’t sure until Monday morning that I was going to venture into the totality area of the total eclipse. Despite it being literally two towns away and me never having seen one before, I was just feeling iffy on it. Jim was ALL IN and we had gone back and forth on what our plans were going to be. Our 16th anniversary was on Friday and I didn’t want to spend a day on our anniversary weekend stuck in traffic. Jim cared less about traffic and very much wanted to see the longest possible total eclipse. We’d both had a fairly hectic set of months in the lead-up which probably affected both of our outlooks. On the night before, our loose plan was “Drive to someplace lovely in Randolph and see the partial eclipse.” When we woke up after a good night of rest on Sunday and it looked like traffic wasn’t yet a disaster, we changed our minds and decided to hop into the car.

We drove north on Route 12 and stopped a few times feeling out possible vantage points, pulling out the gazetteer when our cell signal dissolved. After somehow running into no traffic we scooted sideways and went to one of our favorite outdoor places, Berlin Pond. We parked the car at around 2 pm, took out the weird blanket I keep in the car for no reason (no, not the Emergency Winter Blanket, more like some fake sheepskin thing I keep meaning to get rid of) and sprawled out in the grass and listened to music, watching other people arrive. We got up every now and again to marvel at the traffic on I-89, just a few dozen yards away, which was thickening up quickly. We took some goofy photos.

The first sign that things were starting was the temperature dropping. We could see the moon’s shadow moving across the sun with our eclipse glasses–thanks local library!– but without them it still felt like broad daylight. We could not have had better weather. There were maybe 30-40 people there all told. The last thing that happened before the total eclipse was a group of people showed up and started looking at the sun, sounding dejected that they’d “just missed it.” We got to tell them “No you’re just in time, keep watching!” They’d driven eleven hours from Maryland. We counted license plates from twelve different states either parked or driving past there. I’ve seen three more in the 48 hours since.

I was surprised just how cool the total eclipse looked and could see why Jim was really pushing to be in the place with the longest totality (we weren’t, but we had a good chunk of time in the dark). It was truly amazing, seeing the little coronal ejection areas, the diamond ring thing, the Bailey’s beads thing, the weird quieting of the birds, the cheering of the people around us all of whom seemed equally delighted. Some people started driving home pretty soon after the sun started re-emerging. The weather was still good so we decided to hang out for a while. I remembered that I had my goofy bear head in the car and so Jim and I stood next to the highway–what had been nearly-stopped traffic going north turned into nearly-stopped traffic going south within thirty minutes–taking turns wearing the bear head and waving goodbye to the people on the highway. People honked and waved and took our picture and yelled “We love Vermont!” out the window; it was a joyful event.

After about ninety minutes of this, we had no more arm strength left and hopped in the car to go home. We took a series of back roads ending up on Route 14 which was mostly smooth sailing all the way to Randolph. We stopped in at the pizza place which was slammed (thank you Village Pizza!) and got some dinner while talking to a lot of people who were clearly in from other places. We discussed the merits of staying an additional overnight in the woods just to have a maple creemee with some kids from New Jersey (we were supportive). Got home, ate some food, looked at our photos, looked at other people’s photos. My phone rang and it was the local police (?!) saying that I’d apparently left my wallet in the pizza place and someone turned it in. I offered to go get it but our police chief said he was out and about anyway and would drop it off. When he rang the doorbell around 8:30 I chatted with him about how the day had gone. I guess Waze routed a LOT of people through the center of town and traffic was snarly but people were generally in good spirits and his day hadn’t been too bad. My wallet still had all the money in it.

Jim did go home Monday night and hit the wall of traffic we’d all been hearing about but he was in pretty good cheer about it and his trip home was only about 45 minutes longer than it would have been. I spent some time chatting with local and internet friends about the whole event. I realized, at some point, that I’d fractured my telling of this story across maybe five different platforms, so I figured I’d put it here as well. Thanks for coming to Vermont, people who came, come back soon! Here are a few more photos.

a woman in a bear head stands by the side of a highway waving at traffic

the end of leisure, the start of fall

PILE of postcards

All it takes is a few people to say “Oh you’re turning 50, I’ll send you 50 postcards” to turn a normal mail day into a postal snowstorm. Which is to say, I greatly enjoyed getting all this mail. I think yesterday may have been the first day I had a mailbox without a postcard in it. It was a great celebration and an all around good time. Thanks to everyone who wrote.

For some reason I’ve been busy. I say this every time like it’s a surprise, but this time it really sort of is. I decided “No airplanes” for the rest of 2018 so I could chill and not get into a talk-agita phase. So I assumed I’d have tons of free time. No! Lots of meetings, most of them fun. Helping plan the future course of the VT Library Association, the Randolph Conservation commission, and giving privacy talks in VT and NH.

It is nice to know I’ll be around for all of October and won’t be writing one of those plaintive “Why am I leaving Vermont in October?” posts. That said, Grace Paley had some stuff to say about this. I heard this poem at my first official Vermont Humanities Council board meeting which was more fun and more interesting than I thought it would be. I hope we can do great things.

Side note: I think some of my optimism and good cheer can come from the fact that I had SHINGLES (Welcome to 50 Jessamyn! Why thank you, it sucks) which was, briefly, an incredible amount of pain that I am no longer in. So every day I wake up painless, I am thrilled. My over-50 friends, get your vaccinations!

Here are some Fall Equinox Greetings from my good friend Matthew. I hope the season is treating you well.

mini-jinx, mini-fix

I scored a 114 point word in Scrabble last week. The word was SEVENTY. On a double double, and then a bingo. Bam. I had a cold just after Town Meeting and a return from Montréal that lasted far shorter than it should have. In contrast, Jim has been sick an unreasonable amount with some sort of lingering crud so I haven’t seen him in a while.

What’s that, you say, you were on Montréal? I thought you were in Toronto! Both are true. Jim and I had a vacation scheduled to go see friends and walk around and eat food in Montréal. He was too sick to go. I figured I could stand to get out of the house anyhow. I had friends who had a friend who had a few cats that could use company and I hung out with them (friends and cats) for about a day and a half and had a nice drive up and back. Went to a new library and picked up some local library gossip. I’ve photographed 40 of Vermont’s 183 public libraries so far. Checked out a museum and got to use my Harvard Library card to save myself $10 (it’s almost like it was a paid fellowship!). Went to the public library and tried to get help getting on wifi from people who spoke French as a first language. Interesting experience. Stumbled into a street fair and walked for miles in five degree weather, it was a good time. More photos under this photo.

image of Douglas Coupland art project

Lastly, I brought bagels down to Town Meeting which was the day after I got back. We have a little coffee hour before the meeting and I’d always fill up on cinnamon buns and then be all jangley and crabby through the meeting. This year I said “BE THE CHANGE, JESSAMYN” and brought something with protein. And so did other people. I wrote a little bit about my Town Meeting experience on the Harvard blog, it was a good experience. Between getting up for coffee hour and staying late for vote counting (and getting to tell my friend he’d won his election!) I had a 12 hour day being busy. This is not usual for me. More photos under this photo.

stapler with a smiley flag sticker on it_f0fce3e108_c

So I got home and crashed and stayed crashed for a few days. My positive self-talk is that I was snuffly because I hugged too many people and that is the story I am sticking to.

Next week I am working at an actual library (filling in for Virgil who got a new job!) and tweeting for a week the @ThisisVT account which is something done by the State Department of Tourism. I am also feuding with the State Department of Taxes so I am sure this will all be just grand.

Extra “bad” Virgo Month of Leisure

a bunch of people clowning for the camera.

So Run DMC has that catchy song where they say “Not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good” and that’s how I feel about forgetting about the Virgo Month of Leisure. I mean it’s sort of a joke already. I have to have a vacation from my life, an entire month, because I am high strung and don’t know how to relax. So forgetting the fake holiday because I was (maybe) busy relaxing? Joke writes itself.

But! This year I’ve been getting better at it. I meditate now (I will only talk about it if you ask) and do yoga when I am in Vermont. I went on nearly three weeks of actual vacation this summer and as a result, forgot about the Virgo Month of Leisure entirely until a few days ago. And then I went back through the old MoL posts to see if I’d been keeping up with them and no I had not. Last year I had a weird shoulder problem and so wasn’t posting much. I’m not even sure what I was doing the year before. In 2013 I did a 15 year wrap-up so I’m pretty plugged in from before that.

This past weekend was both Childnado IV (pictured) AND my birthday on consecutive days. I haven’t even gotten my photos from London uploaded yet but I can just word-picture it for you and tell you it was a good time. And London was a good time. And I miss being home in Vermont but I feel like I really summered it up this time, in every good way. This week is about putting things away and loading up my car and eating all the leftovers and getting ready to teach people how to use computers and becoming reacquainted with smaller towns and emptier roads and woodsier yards and colder weather. Totally ready for it.

For people who are interested in my librarianing, I’ve got a librarian newsletter which I send out more or less weekly, just 500-800 words about library topics. Feel free to click over to see the archives or subscribe if it’s the sort of thing you think you’d like.

this is me


The shift from Vermont to Massachusetts is always sort of weird. I feel like I get amnesia for a week or two and I forget what size I am and bump into everything. Then I spend a few weeks cleaning everything up (last year it was pruning junipers and this year it’s been cleaning the garage and basement) and then I settle in to summertime. I’d been back in MA for a few weeks and came up here to Randolph for the 4th. A great but incredibly busy time and (knock wood) everything worked. I saw friends, met a new baby, ate hot dogs, hosted people, was hosted, made some new professional contacts, petted a bunch of pets, watched the parade, got some good sleep, went walking with Jim, bought a library table, opened mail and marveled at how GREEN everything is up here. I even got out on a kayak on Lake Champlain (thanks Kristen!) which I’d never done before.

So today is reversing the flow, getting into the car and puttering back down to Westport where my calendar is empty of social stuff but full of work for the next five days. I like work. But I like it even more when it follows a lot of play.

Photos of some of the clean up efforts.
Photos of the Fourth of July parade.

[note, despite title, that photo is actually not me but I sort of wish it was]

as the sun goes down, here we are


Apple season is the best. I think if I were forced to choose between “apple season” and “autumn” I might go with the apples. Fortunately, I don’t really have to choose and that’s good news. Here is a gallery of some of the apples I’ve gotten to sample around here in the past few years.

Two big pieces of news here. The first is that I’ve actually gotten me and my healing ankle back to the gym over the past few weeks which is doing wonders for my mood. While I think the mandatory ankle-inspired slowdown was maybe not a bad thing, I’m very happy to be scooting around at my regular pace again. Being able to ride a bike and swim laps and still be able to walk okay afterwards is happymaking and especially before the winter comes. Now that daylight saving time has passed, the sun sets over the nearby hill at about 3:30 and I’ve lost all momentum by about the time I start mod-work at about six pm. Exercise helps.

The other odd piece of news is that I’m now an elected official in Randolph, Vermont. I’m now an elected Justice of the Peace along with eleven other people. I start February 1st. Yes, I can marry people. I also help out with elections and tax abatement hearings and not too much else. I can become a notary. I can get a special stamp. I started a little blog about it if you are curious about Justice of the Peace-ery, as I am. Basically once I started traveling significantly less for work, I wanted to do something here in the town that I love so much. And I’m pretty mouthy about people’s civic obligations to one another, so this is me walking the talk. I wasn’t really expecting to win, truth be told, and yeah I’m not really entirely a Democrat but it’s significantly more of a pain to run as an independent, so here we are. I’m excited and interested and we’ll see how it goes, as with most things.

metadata and the back catalog

some of the backlist

This was a rainy weekend. This is mostly fine with me because the improved weather has made me insta-wistful for all the chilly indoor data projects that I got to muck around with over the winter that will now lie fallow-ish until it gets nasty out again. But with the rains, comes a little extra time.

So my new nerdy project is to go back and photograph all the 251 towns (and four gores) that Vermont has and that I have been to. Some of this is simple–I have been to most of the towns around here hundreds of times–and some is difficult. When people talk about data collection and organization and how it’s all on the internet and really you go to school to be a librarian? and bla bla bla, I look at teeny little stuff like this. Of course, with a phone and geolocation and a ready Flickr account, starting this project today is simpler [for all the towns where I can get a cell signal, which is an interesting statistic in and of itself] than starting it would have been back in 2004 when my first photo is from. Similarly, many older photo and information organizing projects are these long tatting projects merging metadata and content, preferably in some sort of machine-readable way, where previously there had been a box of photos in an attic. I could do this stuff forever. Enjoying organization and metadata in this day and age, pretty much means that I will always have a job that will make me happy.

My workflow for today has been amusing, filling in some blanks. I figure I have about 1/4 to 1/3 of Vermont’s towns photographed. Here’s an example of what I’ve been doing.

  1. Remember that I had a photo of a trip I’d made to Bennington and Shaftsbury a few years ago, towns that weren’t yet on my list.
  2. Search my email to find the exact date of the trip (because I’d mentioned it to folks)
  3. Go through iphoto to figure out what photos that I’d taken on that day
  4. Check my paper map and photo list to see which towns I didn’t have photos for
  5. Try to figure out where random nature scenes were from using context clues (okay I’m pretty sure that Welcome to Vermont sign has a highway sign beyond it, zoom in… zoom in…)
  6. Cross-check that info with the highlighted gazetteer I have which shows which roads I’ve been on to locate them
  7. Upload photos with good metadata (tags, town name, add to VT 251 set)
  8. Add uploaded photos to Flickr map
  9. Manually put an x on the paper map
  10. Add a strikethrough to the town list on the Flickr set page
  11. Do a reality check and realize I’ve uploaded a photo once calling it Rupert and once calling it Pownal.
  12. Repeat, trying to remember other trips I’ve made

Most of this starts because I have the memory of a photo. Often I can conflate that with a highlighted line on a map. Ultimately I’ll have clickable pixels and linked data and a neat thing to show people. I ge tto do this in-between keeping up with MetaFilter, running out to the post office and running out to the library where I just realized the book I am dying to read is actually checked in and on the shelf.

And speaking of neat things to show people, the other project for today was to start the Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge. I know I sound like a weird shill for the Vermont State Parks, but really this is a fun project. A lot of little things to do, points assigned for the things you document, you send in documentation after you reach 250 points, you get a free parks pass for the rest of 2011 and all of 2012. It’s possible I lack imagination but I really enjoy the “Let’s pick from a list of things to do” process more than the “So, what do you want to do?” one. I started a little blog to keep track of what I’ve been doing on the project. That’s the rainy day report. There’s always something to sort around here.