You’re so vain, I bet you think this about you
By Rob Carrigan, email@example.com
As many local skywatchers make plans to view the solar eclipse next Monday, I can’t help but think of, and identify with, the Carly Simon hit written ages ago, in 1972, and featuring Mick Jagger in its most popular version.
“Well I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won. Then you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia, To see the total eclipse of the sun,” wrote Simon and songwriting partner Chun Keung Lam.
Many years ago, I ran the newspaper in the little town of Saratoga, Wyoming. Interestingly, the paper was the Saratoga Sun. It is where I came to realize that even the big national and international stories can have a profound impact here at home.
Because of a more complete eclipse in Wyoming, many folks from here and points south, plan to make sojourns up into Wind River reservation country where my old high school football coach resides in Shoshoni, Wyo., north of Saratoga. The resident Shoshoni tribe has close ties to Utes, (of Ute Pass) and Piute.
Native Americans however, are sort of divided about the eclipse. Take reports from Indian Country Today on the Navajos’ take.
“Generally in traditional Navajo in the culture you don’t watch eclipses. It’s something out of the ordinary, something that’s not in the regular order of things, and so people were taught to be very respectful. And that included staying inside, not eating, not drinking, not having sex, things like that,” said Nancy Maryboy, Cherokee-Navajo, president and executive director of the Indigenous Education Institute and a liaison with NASA. “And that has been pretty well followed on the Navajo Nation even up to today. And in some cases, up to a few years ago, they would let school out during an eclipse and the kids would go home, stay at home.”
For a 2012 event however, she noted some surprises among the buzz generated on the Internet, especially social media, about the solar eclipse then.
“Interestingly enough, a lot of younger people who are very hip, younger people were sending out messages on their Facebook not to – you know, that it was more traditional to stay in and not look at the eclipse. A lot of people were doing that. I found that very interesting,” Maryboy told Indian Country Today Media Network in an interview. “And then some of the traditional people, several of them that I knew decided it might be okay if you looked at it through dark glasses that NASA gave out. So basically everybody did it in the way that made the most sense to them.”
However, she added, “I would say that because of that traditional viewpoint probably a lot less people watched it on the Navajo nation than other tribal areas.”
The Cherokee, for instance, do not have such a taboo. Maryboy, of both heritages, said she was torn about whether to watch but that cloudy skies in Washington State, where she was at the time, made the decision for her.
At the Navajo National Monument, Melba Martin, an archeo-astronomer and Navajo who works with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), was scheduled to give an inside presentation for those who wanted to learn while observing the taboo. However, she said, only five people came. The most traditional Navajo observed the taboo in a separate room, sequestered, while the rangers allowed visitors into the park, where they set up shop with telescopes.
Martin went the nontraditional route, opting to watch through a filtered telescope.
“We managed to pass out the eclipse glasses to make sure everyone was safe, and check on the people who were viewing through the telescopes. We talked with them for a short time about the traditions, in a respectful way, and told them that was why they weren’t seeing many Navajos out,” she said of the outside observers. “They were very accepting, very interested in the culture. And so for about 2 hours we were out there before, during and after the eclipse.”
She called it a unique experience and said the balance was so well struck that she is now planning a similar event to observe the transit of Venus on June 5.
“So it was quite interesting what I experienced at Navajo National Monument. And I really think the park rangers at Navajo National Monument did a great job at observing their traditional way and allowing people into the park who were not Navajos to see the eclipse.”
The Wind River Indian Reservation is an enticing viewing location for the Aug. 21 Wind RiverEclipse. To make this dream a reality, the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes have identified locations in which they prefer people to park and camp, and they have created a special eclipse permitting process.
A PDF document of the map and permitting details has been published by the WindRiver Reservation and the Tribal Game and Fish Department. If a traveler asks you, “How or where can I watch the eclipse on the Wind River Reservation,” show it to them, says information from the tribe.
“The Wind River Eclipse is almost upon us. After years of preparation across Wind River Country, WY, we are all ready for the sky to go dark on Aug. 21, and to welcome the travelers who will be coming from all over the world!,” says information from the county and the tribe.
“As a result of the hard work, hospitality, and important planning on the part of many people across the county, the week of Aug. 17—22 is rife with events. The Wind River Visitors Council has compiled all these events going on during the eclipse week across the county into a flyer handout for travelers to pick up at convenient locations. We have attached that black and white handout for you to use and share!” say Wyoming hospitality organizations.
Carly Simon over years has been reluctant to identify who her song is actually about. Speculation has included Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty, David Geffen, David Bowie, David Cassidy and Cat Stevens, and even James Taylor, who Simon was married to shortly before writing the song. She said it is definitely not about Taylor.
Two solar eclipses ("Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun") were visible from Nova Scotia in the early 1970s, on March 7, 1970, and July 10, 1972. Simon said she wrote the song in 1971, so she likely referenced the one from 1970.