Joco Diversions

Here’s to the barely planned moments

A gathering with loved ones at the beach. Unexpected moments are the best.
A gathering with loved ones at the beach. Unexpected moments are the best. Special to The Star

How on earth did I end up gazing at the sky on the edge of a McDonald’s parking lot in Knob Noster, Mo.? And how on earth, a mere six days later, did I swoon at a salmon sunset on Fire Island?

That was one stellar week.

I helped slap together both experiences with little planning, even the jaunt to the East Coast. I never expected to plant my feet in either place at all this summer. Rural Missouri? What?

And that gorgeous slope of sand between the lighthouse and breaking waves? Wasn’t on my agenda.

Aside from the too-brief frolic by the Atlantic dunes, New York was Knob Noster and Knob Noster was New York. There were no dazzling theater shows or quaint farm-to-table getaways on either itinerary.

I went to Knob Noster because of a brief intergalactic alignment of circumstances. I went to New York to join my parents on mundane appointments, and mainly to share hugs.

But that little Missouri town along Highway 50? Why? At this point it’s September and nobody wants to hear about so-last-month’s eclipse, so I’ll skip the details about how I saw a star pop out in the early afternoon. And how I stood in a most ordinary place that transformed to another planet, where the faded light of dusk was 360 degrees around instead of just west.

I will say it almost didn’t happen.

By coincidence, my husband was off that day. I had cleared my obligations, just in case. We kept the sky-gazing option on the maybe pile. Then at the last minute, on that stormy morning, we couldn’t resist doing something.

We pondered roads, traffic and weather. It was a puzzle. Somehow, we triangulated a possible rare patch of cloudless totality.

For the first time in my life, I looked up from a pile of old-school paper maps and uttered the phrase, “Let’s go to Knob Noster.”

We gulped some coffee, hit the gas, and a few hours later witnessed something beautiful.

And I didn’t expect the sun to give me an equally breathtaking show a mere five days later. But I got lucky.

I had been on Long Island less than 24 hours when my New York City brother, the birthday boy du jour, texted me. He was heading to the beach with a friend and our cousin. If I could pull our hesitant parents there — the ones who worried about tripping on the sand — it would be cool.

I ran to a favorite bakery and found a cake that wouldn’t melt. I hit the grocery store for some sandwich stuff. Cold cuts on Kaiser rolls plus coffee cake. So New York. I made sandwiches and a strong case for my parents to hit the shore.

“We’ll help you on the sand! We’ll find a nice easy spot by the boardwalk. It’s birthday time! Let’s go to the beach!”



Probably the best contraction ever. It whispers “Let us.” I love its essence of sudden decisiveness and its request for togetherness.

Let’s go to Knob Noster! Let’s go to the beach!

Two simple declarations that led to a total solar eclipse and a gorgeous sunset with people I love. The first filled the air with many wows, the second with precious voices singing “Happy Birthday” on the edge of rolling sand dunes.

These barely planned events were preceded with hesitation, but rewarded with sweet memories.

Sometimes experiences inked out way ahead of time can lead to disappointment. The sun plays hide and seek with all of us, but with faith and luck you can catch a hazy pastel seascape or a sparkling ray that looks like a diamond ring in the heavens.

I’ve never had a bucket list. But now I do. It has just one item: Let’s.  

Reach Denise at On Twitter @DeniseSnodell