Stress Management, Well-being and Self-Care

Jim Porter pointing to a map of the totality eclipse zone

Stress, Indecision and the 2024 Solar Eclipse

by Erica Tuminski April 12, 2024

Pictured above:  I’m pointing to a map of where the zone of totality is in upstate NY.

Watch the 3 minute video I shot of the eclipse at the end of this blog.

I’ve always wanted to see (and film) a total eclipse. But indecision was threatening to get in between me and ticking off this big item on my bucket list. When I first read about the solar eclipse 8 months ago, I said to myself: “You have to go.” The article I read said: Don’t wait. Prices for hotels and flights to the zone of totality were already starting to rise.

If you haven’t seen the maps, the zone of totality is about a hundred mile wide path that ran from Mexico to Maine. Most experts suggested that Texas was the place least likely to experience rain on that day. So I looked to see what it would cost to travel to Austin, TX and yes, prices were already a little high back then, but still affordable. None the less, I put off making my decision for which I would eventually chide myself.

Coincidentally, Austin, Texas is where Dr. Kristin Neff, who wrote a book about self-compassion is a professor. She was the first to study the science behind the mental health benefits of simply being kind to yourself. We spend a lot of time and consequently waste a lot of energy listening to this vicious voice in our heads. Folks like me, beat ourselves up so unmercifully for making a wrong decision, it sometimes makes it very difficult for us to make ANY decision at all!

Even though I lived in Connecticut about a 6-hour drive from the zone of totality running through upstate New York, the doubting voice in my head was saying don’t go there! It will probably rain. (It rains or is cloudy there on an average of about 270 days a year.) But the voice also said, that in the unlikely event that it rains in Austin, you’ll have spent thousands of dollars for nothing. In my head it was a no-win proposition.

So I agonized about where to go for the next 6 months, checking prices online and watching them go up astronomically. Eventually, I felt like I just couldn’t afford to spend the money it would cost to travel to Texas. Sometimes no decision becomes its own decision.

Eventually, I was able to make peace with the idea that towards the end of March, I would simply watch the weather forecast and I would make plans to drive to upstate New York if it looked promising. Two weeks prior to April 8th, there was a lot of rain in the forecast, but Sunday the 7th and Monday the 8th - the farthest out days - looked like they were going to be sunny. I was pumped but still way too early to celebrate my indecisiveness! By Friday, April 5th, the weather forecast was showing sun on Sunday and clouds on Monday. 

All along my wife had been reading things about what might happen in the zone of totality on April 8th. Nightmare traffic jams, no cell service, inability to use your credit card, gas stations running out of gas, lack of water, etc. Fear is an excellent inhibitor of decision making!

Saturday evening April 6th I packed my car with everything I would need for the next 3 days except perishable food. I had snacks, I had 3 gallons of water, my clothes, my camera, my tripod, my special eclipse glasses, a special eclipse filter for the front of my camera and even a sleeping bag in case I had to wind up sleeping in the car.

Sunday Morning April 7th at five AM I started driving toward the Catskills in Upstate New York, where I had a place I could stay for free. When I hit route I-84 in New York, there were flashing signs every 10 miles that said: SOLAR ECLIPSE: MONDAY APRIL 8th. ARRIVE EARLY STAY LATE. The entire state was on alert for bone-crushing traffic delays. My indecisive mind said: Look you’re doing exactly what the sign says to do and there’s almost no traffic. By the time I got to the Catskills, the traffic had increased considerably, but still it was moving briskly.

When I looked at my cell phone that evening, the forecast for Monday was CLOUDY all day. Not partly cloudy but just plain cloudy. I started lapsing into a painful bout of indecision again. I called my wife for a little moral support. I told her, look if I drive all that way tomorrow and there’s no eclipse, and then I get caught in a monster traffic jam coming back I’m just going to be mad at myself for wasting an entire day. She said: You think you will be upset, what about all the people who booked air travel to upstate NY and paid for hotel rooms at $700-$1000 a night? Think how they will feel. All you stand to lose is a day of your time plus a couple of tanks of gas. It’s low risk! Go! It was a shot in the arm, and just what I needed to hear.

I slept fitfully that night, and when I woke up at 4 AM, I said to myself: look you might as well just go. Get on the road. How many people are going to be on the road at 4 AM? Turns out, very few. I was ahead of the crowd for sure. The flashing signs along the highway had changed to SOLAR ECLIPSE, MONDAY APRIL 8th, 2024 NO PARKING ON THE SHOULDER. 

When I got on I-87 heading north, I noticed the stars were all out. It was a perfectly clear night. For a guy who NEVER goes to church I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I said a little prayer: “Please God. Just give me this one thing. I really want it. (here’s the embarrassing part) I’ve earned this.” I immediately felt better. I thought to myself, maybe this is why ALL the books I have EVER read about reducing stress recommend prayer as an excellent way todo it!

I had decided weeks before that I would watch the eclipse in Long Lake, NY. It wasn’t in the center of the zone of totality but it was about an hour north of Lake George and would give me the option of coming back to my place in the Catskills, via back roads in case there was a massive traffic jam after the eclipse was over. I got off at exit 26 about 7 AM in Pottersville, NY and pulled off at a Sunoco station.

Every time my gas tank got to half empty, as a precaution, I would fill it. I asked the cashier if I had entered the zone of totality, but he didn’t speak much English and directed me to the store manager. The store manager had no idea what I was talking about. But I identified a group of fellow Eclipse chasers while out by my car and I asked them if we were already in the zone of totality. “Not yet,” one replied with an air of authority I really appreciated, “probably another 20 miles north, we’ll hit the southern edge of it.” As the group got into the car they said: “We’re headed to Tupper Lake. There is a lot of stuff going on there today and it’s smack dab in the middle of Totality so you’ll get the longest view of the TOTAL eclipse.”

It was about 7:30 in the morning, and so far, I had encountered very little traffic. I really just wanted a beautiful place to film the eclipse, and I could get back on 87 and drive to Lake Placid in about 30 minutes – which I had been to before and knew was a gorgeous place – but since Long Lake offered me a better escape route after the Eclipse, I figured I should just keep going till I got there. If it wasn’t to my liking, I would still have plenty of time to head over to Lake Placid.

But here was another decision I began agonizing over, and here’s why: When I asked my brother the week before about Long Lake he said: “Well it’s like the Northern Catskills. You know what that’s like.” And yes, I did know. It would be a combination of exquisite beauty and mixed in with a certain number of run down abandoned buildings, tractors, lawn mowers and other assorted junk. In a lot of these areas, what somebody else would take to the junk yard, many people just left lying to rust on their front lawns. Plus, even the tourist and ski areas of upstate NY bear little or no resemblance to other popular tourist destinations in other parts of the Country.

The first town in Totality I came to was Newcombe, NY. The sign on the edge of town was festooned with a banner that proclaimed I could watch the Eclipse from here. As I moved a little further up the road there were orange cones in the street and one held a sign that said “EVENT TODAY.” When I got to the center of town there was a park to my right that had a drop-dead gorgeous view of the Adirondack Mountains in the distance. There was a nearly empty parking lot, to my left and it seemed about 50 townspeople were setting up tents and getting ready for a major influx of tourists and traffic.

There was a food truck in one corner of the parking lot. So here was I was my first decision point: Should I stay here? It was 8 AM and it would be a long wait for the Eclipse to begin at 2:12 PM that afternoon. I asked one of the locals where he thought the Sun would be during the Eclipse and he pointed up over the parking lot. I got back in my car and continued on to Long Lake.

When I got to Long Lake, it was truly a tourist town, with a lot of interesting looking shops and restaurants, but unfortunately for me, the lake, which WAS beautiful, was also surrounded by houses. I wanted to be able to point my camera in a direction where there was no signs of human inhabitance. 

So it pained me a bit to keep going. I had made the decision to go to Long Lake. Why was I ALWAYS second-guessing my own decisions? And Long Lake looked like it would be a really fun place to hang out for the day. I chastised myself again as I reached the northern border of the town: “Make up your mind. So what if there are houses around the lake. Who cares!”

Then the more understanding part of me, said, “It’s OK if you don’t find what you like soon, you can head back. It’s still only 730 in the morning. You’ve got plenty of time.” I was as yet having no issues with traffic, but I noticed that just about every available parking space along the road through Long Lake was starting to fill up. There was one perfect spot available right in front of the Lake that I passed up on.

I continued driving north. When I saw a sign that said: Tupper Lake 25 miles, I remembered the conversation at gas station, the comforting voice of authority and I thought: OK let’s check this place out. Maybe this is where I’m meant to go. I immediately started seeing sights of immense beauty, not the least of which was this cool winding stream I drove over on a short bridge and a sign on the south side of it that read “The Hudson River.” Wow, I thought the mighty Hudson River narrowed down to a stream I could practically walk across! How cool is that? Things finally felt like they were falling into place and there was STILL not a cloud in the sky!

As I drove further North there were many scenic spots where a car or two had pulled over to claim their spot for the day. Here again, the voice in my head was saying DECIDE Porter, you don’t know how quickly things will get to where you don’t have any choices about where to park and consequently film this event. None the less I continued on. 

When I got to Tupper Lake, I was blown away by how beautiful it was, and there were no houses on the West Side of the lake – the direction in which – I imagined I would be watching and filming the eclipse. The minute I arrived at the edge of town, I KNEW I had made the right decision.

I drove around in town a bit just to get the lay of the land, and immediately began to notice school busses throughout the town. It was about the time kids would be going to school, so I didn’t make much of it. I found a tent set up where local townspeople were selling bling and took a selfie standing in front of an iconic wood carving wearing the $28 T-shirt and an $18 baseball cap emblazoned with the logo: Totality in Tupper.

Soon I found a place near the lake where I could leave my car and and look around. It was only about 8 AM and there were still plenty of places to park. As I walked about, I noticed more and more school busses and eventually realized, these busses were there to pick up tourists and take them from place to place. I found an information center about two blocks away from where I parked. They explained that there was a whole schedule of events taking place throughout the town but that the center of the activity would be at the elementary school where there were multiple events going on all day.

So, I hopped on a bus and took it to the elementary school. When I arrived there was a huge banner that acted as a kind of portico to the activities going on beyond it.

Here there were tents and food trucks and a viewing station set up by NASA with a huge telescope that was providing a live feed to its own web site of the eclipse as it looked from the center of the zone of Totality right here in Tupper Lake.

I attended a lecture about Eclipses given by an Astronomy Professor, Dr. Seth Redfield from Wesleyan University in Connecticut. The fact that I had gone to college at Wesleyan seemed like just one more sign that the stars were now in alignment and that I truly was in the right place at the right time! Even though the forecast on my phone was still saying cloudy, Dr. Redfield seemed 100% sure that we were going to see a total eclipse that day. “If you’ve ever seen a partial eclipse, this is NOTHING like what we are all going to witness today. A partial eclipse pales in comparison to a Total Eclipse. There’s nothing else like it." I thought it was another good sign that his wife and his three school age children were sitting in the front row.

His confidence finally silenced the doubting-Thomas voice in my head for good.

Someone earlier had tipped me off that there was a wonderful natural history museum called the Wild Center within walking distance of the Elementary School. So after the lecture I headed over there. Besides having a lot of Eclipsed-themed exhibits, they had a Native American speaker, who gave a wonderful talk about mythic, native explanations for Eclipses and the traditions surrounding them that various tribes across America had observed throughout the centuries.

He kept emphasizing a point that finally resonated inside me that wouldn’t go away for the rest of the day. “This is a shared experience,” he explained. That’s what made it so special. That not only would we be watching this with hundreds of other people locally, but with millions of other people across the country. Practically the entire US was at the very least going to see a significant part of the Sun swallowed up by the Moon (or a giant god-like Frog in ancient Cherokee culture) And that piece of information started to change me from the inside out.


After the lecture I took the bus back to my car and scoped out a place in front of the lake to park my tripod and camera. I was standing right in front of people who were already sitting on the other side a path that ran along the edge of the lake. No one minded, that I was setting up right in front of them – on the edge of the lake - because as it turned out no one was looking at the lake but at the sky above the lake! I wanted to have the option of both views.

I started filming right at 2:12 PM and turned the camera on for a few minutes and off for a few minutes as the moon slowly traveled across the sky and took larger and larger bites out of the Sun over the next hour. At about 3:22 PM it started getting really dark. A cool wind came over the lake and I zipped up my winter coat. I just left the camera on for the next ten minutes. Totality would begin at exactly 3:24:27 and last until about 3:28. When the sky went completely dark at about 3:24:20, there was a hush followed by a whoop of amazement and then when the corona popped out like an indigenous African Mask around the moon, there was a cheer that rang out across the lake.

My agonizing indecision, having lasted for months and months was now instantly transformed into a thought that this was one of best decisions (and really a series of decisions) I had ever made.

My camera view at the outset of the eclipse. to watch the 4 min. video, click on the camera or use this link:



Erica Tuminski
Erica Tuminski