Joe Jencks


Joe Jencks ~ April Concerts and Essay: Eclipse on I-90

Joe Jencks nbspApril Concerts and Essay Eclipse on I90

The Solar Eclipse from I-90 exit 2, east of Erie, PA.

Upcoming Concert Dates
(Additional / full listings under Tour Dates)
4-13 ~ Joe Jencks in Concert, Seattle Folklore Society ~ Seattle, WA
4-14 ~ Joe Jencks in Concert w/ guest Linda Allen ~ Bellingham, WA
4-14 ~ My Highway Home Broadcast (Joe’s Radio Show) 6 PM ET/ 3 PM PST
4-17 ~ My Highway Home Re-Broadcast (Joe’s Radio Show) 12 Noon ET/ 9 AM PST
4-18 to 4-21 ~ Joe Jencks Performer & Panelist at Labor Notes ~ Chicago, IL
4-25 ~ Lansdowne Folk Club w/ guest Jessica Smucker ~ Lansdowne, PA
4-27 ~ Joe Jencks in Concert, Heart & Soul Concert Series ~ Abingdon, MD
5-4 ~ Joe Jencks Little Folks Show at Caffe Lena ~ Saratoga Springs, NY
5-4 ~ Joe Jencks in Concert, Caffe Lena ~ Saratoga Springs, NY
5-5 ~ Joe Jencks in Concert, Music At The Ridge ~ Danbury, CT

Greetings and Happy Spring! And Eclipse! (Yeah. That!)

I am writing today from sunny Seattle, and looking out the window across Green Lake past flowering trees toward the Cascade Mountains. It is a fabulous week to be in this part of the country.

April & May will include some beautiful collaboration with several friends and colleagues. This weekend it is my distinct joy to be returning to Seattle and Bellingham, WA. A great show on Saturday 4-13 for the incomparable Seattle Folklore Society, and a shared show on 4-14 with my friend, Linda Allen. She is a genuine treasure of the Pacific Northwest. And her music has been sung by people all over the world.

Then I am off to the semi-annual Labor Notes Conference in Chicago. This is a gathering of 4500 of the most forward-thinking people in the Labor Movements from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and beyond. It is my honor to be performing, facilitating, and presenting as a panelist.

Later in April I will be returning to the Lansdowne Folk Club (Lansdowne, PA) w/ guest Jessica Smucker, and then on to Abingdon, MD for the fabulous Heart & Soul concert series.

The first weekend in May I am delighted and honored to return to the one and only, Caffe Lena!

I am sad to say that the Climate Justice retreat I discussed in my last newsletter has been postponed until 2025. But we are planning a monthly Zoom lecture and Q & A moving forward, featuring some of the panelists who would have been at the event. Stay tuned for more details.

Also, on Sunday April 14, my radio show ~ My Highway Home ~ will be on Folk Music Notebook (.com). This week’s episode features an interview with Janet Stecher, a marvelous Seattle based musician, organizer, performing artist, and founding director of the Seattle Labor Chorus.

Last but not least, I want to wish my beloved friend, mentor, occasional performing partner, and brother in solidarity—Si Kahn, a happy 80th Birthday! April 23, 1944 was a good day for working people, and brought to the world a very gifted and committed musician, songwriter, ally, and organizer. Happy Birthday, buddy!

Please note below some reflections on the Eclipse. I was privileged to see it in Totality from start to finish at a rest area off of I-90. Stunning.

In Gratitude & Song,

~ Joe Jencks

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Eclipse Camaraderie on I-90
Copyright ~ Joe Jencks 2024

On Monday April 8th, I needed to drive from Albany, NY to Chicago. I was sad to be traveling on the day of the Solar Eclipse. I had wanted to be with friends in Texas. But life has its own plans, and this was how it worked out. As I traced the pathway of Totality, I was delighted to see that it would include a long stretch of I-90 from west of Cleveland, OH through the northern tip of PA, on through the Buffalo, NY region. I figured if I could get in that zone, I would see the Eclipse somehow. But it was a calculated leap of faith.

The day arrived. I was about 15-20 minutes late hitting the road (not bad for me). And the skies were clear until I got west of Syracuse. Then it started clouding over. By time I was south of Rochester, full cloud cover. Buffalo was socked in as well. I was getting anxious. For many of us this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. And a few science friends had pressed upon me the profound difference between being in the path of total Eclipse (Totality) vs. partial. They were right.

With total coverage where I was at about 3:18 PM ET, I kept waiting for a break in the clouds. And then I crossed into Pennsylvania and saw a welcome center rest area at mile marker 2. I looked up and the clouds were thinning considerably. I hopped off the road to find nearly every parking space full (and then some) save for one. I pulled in, grabbed my Eclipse glasses and hopped out of the car with enthusiasm. Sure enough, I could see the dark arc of the Moon moving across the sky, obscuring the Sun with surprising swiftness. I made it. The sky was clearing and I was in a good place 20+ minutes ahead of the big event.

I found a fellow there with an array of equipment set up. He had a telescope on one tripod with a cable running to a computer on another, a still photography camera on yet another tripod, and a third camera in his hand. Then I noticed the insignia on his polo shirt. NASA. I asked if he worked for NASA, he did. I asked why he was at a rest area. He was supposed to be in Buffalo, but he made a last-minute dash for the farthest west point he could get and still have time to set up all of his gear. Turns out he was recording hi-def video from the telescope which was viewing the infrared spectrum. The still camera on a tripod was doing its own thing. The rest was just luck. We both waited with hopeful anticipation for the clouds to fully disperse and for the magic to happen.

As it got darker, it also got colder. A woman who worked for the welcome center (and who had been passing out Eclipse glasses) was also checking on the temperature. It was dropping fast. A couple of minutes before the point of Totality was reached, the last of the clouds were gone. And in perfect clarity, we saw the last few bits of light before the Moon completely occluded the Sun.

It had been getting darker on a gradient that was fairly consistent until the big moment. Then all of a sudden, it was like someone flipped a switch and it got nearly nighttime dark. And then I looked up at the silhouette of the Moon with the Sun’s Corona shimmering around the entire circumference. I was awestruck. This moment was unlike anything I have ever witnessed or felt, and it was not oversold by my science friends who were adamant that if I wanted the full experience, I needed to get into the pathway of Totality.

I expected the Moon to look black. It did not. It appeared a beautiful midnight blue. Deep. Fathomless. And easily four times bigger than I expected. It looked like someone had turned a blue star sapphire inside out. The rich impenetrable center surrounded by the shimmering and ethereal circle of blue-white light that appeared to the eye to dance in slow motion. A large red solar flare (Coronal-mass ejection?) was visible to the naked eye, and my sense of wonder for the universe in which we exist was turned up to eleven.

The quality of light was beautiful. Low but still articulating the shape of everything. Luminous but minimal. Unlike dusk or nighttime, unlike a full moon on a clear night, it was as if the world had become the leading character in an old silver-screen film. Yet somehow, infinitely more dimensional.

I kept looking up at the massive inverted sapphire in the sky, and my guy from NASA was occasionally explaining what I was seeing through the lens of his perspective, as well as his camera. I felt blessed. Lucky beyond measure to have made it to this place at just the right time, and to stumble on a photographer working for NASA who was my docent through the whole experience.

It is frequently my inclination to draw attention to some deeper meaning buried in a story like this. I am still sitting with it. I had three Eclipse specific dreams leading up to the event, and a couple of dreams after that were clearly related. Against the odds, I made it to a perfect place from which to view this extraordinary event in Totality, cloud and traffic free. Grateful. Clearly this is deep in my conscious, unconscious and subconscious mind. It will keep tumbling.

When the Eclipse moved into Totality there was no cheering at the rest area along I-90. There was quiet joy and reverence for the wonders of the universe. People gasped and were collectively awed by this phenomenal sight which we all seemed to observe with gentle respect. But around us, in nearby towns and parks, on farms, and on Lake Erie, there were people setting off fireworks. I was surprised. The NASA guy was annoyed. He muttered something about this being a once in a lifetime event for most people, and wondered why humans can’t let that be enough? Indeed, there was nothing about the majesty of the moment that required anything extra. It was complete all by itself.

~ Joe Jencks (4-9-24)

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