Elma Family Kitty Living Arrows Pip

Living Arrows 2015: 12/52


It was just an ordinary shoe box to begin with. A little tiny box, purple patterns on brown cardboard that once held a pair of bright pink shoes with lights in the heels now scuffed and battered and tucked away at the back of a drawer. But as we sat eating pancakes for a circle-themed breakfast on Friday morning H cut and cut again, carving little squares out of the side with a stanley knife and adding tin foil and white card to the ends.  When that was done he turned his attention to an empty beer box rescued from our recycling and before we knew it, and before half past eight, Kitty and Elma were the proud owners of two pinhole cameras.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I spent all of last week stalking at least three different weather forecasts desperately hoping it would be clear and sunny on Friday morning, getting my hopes up when the 9am symbol showed pure sunshine and having them dashed again when it turned back to cloudy an hour or so later.  The day itself dawned misty, but hanging out of the bedroom window and peering upwards it did seem like there was some blue sky behind the fuzzy white.

If willpower alone could burn of early morning haze it would have been gone in seconds but slowly and surely the cloud did seem to be lifting.  We headed out into the garden with our boxes and pointed them at the sun.  H found the sun first and then I found the angle and there on the inside of a shoe box, was a tiny white circle, with a tiny dark bite missing from the bottom left hand corner. The start of the very first eclipse I’ve ever seen.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

(this picture was taken shooting into the pinhole camera just before we got to 90% cover)

I was 19 in 1999, and H and I and some of our friends were all at my parents house so excited for the chance to see a total eclipse on British shores.  And on the day itself the cloud rolled in and a very English sort of an August day presented itself for inspection.  I witnessed a total eclipse, I have been under a total eclipse but I have not seen one with my own eyes, all we saw was the sky getting darker from the wrong direction and as the moment of totality came, the navigation lights on the hundreds and hundreds of boats in the bay below sparkling like jewels in a bowl of water as camera flashes twinkled as far as we could see, and out on the far horizon the band of light that marked the edge of the moon’s shadow.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I wanted to watch it for me because we missed out last time, and I wanted the children to see it, to get even the tiniest understanding of an eclipse, of how the sun works, and of just how important it is to our existence.  In all honesty I think Kitty was the only one who had some awareness of what was going on, Elma dutifully looked in the pinhole camera and she saw the crescent shrinking as the sun became more obscured but she was mostly just excited to be out in the garden playing with everyone and thrilled when a huge hot air balloon appeared almost out of nowhere and floated right over our heads.  And Pip, my lovely boy if you’re reading this in years to come, for the record we held up the shoebox so you could see, you looked, you nuzzled your head into my shoulder, and you tried very hard to capture and eat the box.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But Kitty got it.  We spend a bit of time on Thursday making a mock up of first the sun and the planets and then the sun, moon and earth and acting out all of the rotations and then mocking up an eclipse hiding under a quilt and using the light on my phone as the sun and some of it sank in; when H came home she asked him what our planet was called,

“Earth” he said,

“No that’s not it – what are the other ones?”

“Umm, Venus, Mercury, Mars?”

“Mercury! That’s it!”

Which is admittedly a significant improvement on her answer to me earlier in the afternoon which was “cervix” (I have no idea!!).

And it was Kitty who kept coming back for another look, and Kitty who was captivated by the diamond ring and the total eclipse when we nipped inside to watch it on the telly after our darkest point had passed.  She noticed that the sun was getting darker, but like bedtime, not like a rainy day, and that it got colder as we got nearer and nearer to our 90% ish cover.

Watching the moon cover our sun, our source of warmth and light and all things that make life possible makes you feel very little, so very very tiny compared to these giant orbiting spheres.

 And when you sit and think about that scale, the fact that I can show just a little of that mystery to my daughter with the aid of a shoebox becomes really rather remarkable, a privilege and something I hope she will remember, at least until 2026 when we can set H going with the stanley knife again.

  Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life     

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  • Suzanne3childrenandit 23/03/2015 at 8:17 am

    How lovely that you recorded this momentous occasion on your blog – in years to come, your little ones will LOVE this! I’m really embarrassed to say that I remember nothing of the 1999 eclipse, I actually think that I was pregnant with my eldest! This time, we were sadly covered in a thick cloud so saw nothing here πŸ™ Great pictures of yours though! x

    • Carie 23/03/2015 at 10:13 pm

      I hope at the very least it might jog their memories! I’m from South Devon so you couldn’t move for eclipse everything in the summer of 1999 – it was a lot of fun despite the cloud although I do remember walking everywhere because with the amount of traffic on the roads that could’t cope with the lanes it was faster on foot!

  • Baby Isabella 23/03/2015 at 11:01 am

    Great post to look back on! Love the shoebox idea x #livingarrows

    • Carie 23/03/2015 at 10:11 pm

      It worked really well – and at last my husband puts to use his four year engineering degree!

  • older mum in a muddle 23/03/2015 at 3:40 pm

    Lovely post about a very exciting morning. We had complete cloud cover but we all gathered in Little A’s playground to watch it getting a lot dimmer and a lot colder. It was very noticeable. Later, in the afternoon, we watched the whole thing on the TV. Awesome. X (ps I was 28 in 1999).

    • Carie 23/03/2015 at 10:10 pm

      I told one of Kitty’s nursery key workers that I was nineteen at the last eclipse, “Oh I don’t really remember it” she said “I was only eight!” Never have I felt so ancient!

  • Bibi 23/03/2015 at 5:45 pm

    What a special family moment to have captured. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

    • Carie 23/03/2015 at 10:05 pm

      Aww thank you πŸ™‚

  • susan 23/03/2015 at 10:17 pm

    What a beautiful gift to give your children – and what wonderful, patient and kind parents you are.

  • Rachel @ The Ordinary Lovely 24/03/2015 at 7:53 pm

    I was so excited on Friday. We watched with a few neighbours, all stood in the street wearing pyjamas. It’s so lovely have such wonderful events provoke a real sense of community too. Sadly, I missed the eclipse in 1999. I’d been called in to the manufacturing plant on the night shift for some reason and while I tried to stay awake the next morning, I fell asleep on the sofa. I wish they happened more often!

    • Carie 26/03/2015 at 6:05 am

      Oh that sounds like a wonderful impromptu eclipse party – and I’m sorry you missed the 1999 one, although at least there’s comfort in knowing you didn’t miss much!

  • sustainablemum 24/03/2015 at 10:12 pm

    It was wonderful wasn’t it? We had cloud cover which was a blessing as we could look straight at the eclipse the clouds were doing a grand job of obscuring the glare. I was working in 1999 in Somerset. We got 100% there too, I was instructing canoeing and we all sat in our canoes and watched it happened on the surface of the water it was wonderful!

    • Carie 26/03/2015 at 6:10 am

      Oh I love that you could watch it on the water in 1999 – that much have made it even more spooky and wonderful! I was just so relieved when the cloud cleared here and I actually got to see an eclipse!

  • sally 02/04/2015 at 11:46 am

    It did feel like quite a momentous occasion. And the whole experience made me realise what an effect such events must have had on people long ago who didn’t understand the science behind it.

    • Carie 03/04/2015 at 7:47 am

      You can definitely understand why they thought the end of the world was coming!