POST-ECLIPSED: Some final notations on a cosmic experience


‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’


‘EARTH/MAN/SKY’ | Elder brother David preps for the coming eclipse. And, yes, he came armed with eye protection. | Huffman Prairie Flying Field, near Dayton Ohio. | april8.2024 | photo

text, photos & videos by douglas john imbrogno

The sprawling, concrete-barreled Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, would not look at all out of place as a setting in the “Star Wars” universe, either as a rebel base in the galactic boondocks or an outpost of the Empire. Yet the notable security ringing the main base was breached on Monday, April 8, 2024, its gates thrown open. It was Total Solar Eclipse Day and thousands of cars, visitors, lawn chairs, and floppy hats jammed the place, invited in to a very large party in honor of the big show upstairs.


april8.2024 | photos

Fortunately, my eclipse Uber driver — who also happened to be my elder brother, David — knew the nature of the area well. That is to say, its actual Nature. A lifelong naturalist, he steered us past the turnoff to Wright-Pat’s Eclipseapalooza, which was a turnoff to my solar event tastes. (Although it must have been electrifying to hear a massive, communal ‘Wow’! when totality struck hours later.) Instead, he landed us in the heart of a place familiar to him, the nearby Huffman Prairie Flying Field. It was a perfect eclipse landing site, populated by only a hundred or so people. It was also about as historic a field as you’ll find in middle America.


“We could hardly wait to get up in the morning.”


The spirit of Walt Whitman came to view the Great Eclipse of 2024, seen here checking his text messages while framed against the expanse of Huffman Prairie Flying Field, where the Wright Brothers helped invent aviation. | april8.2024 | photos

This was, after all, the former pasture that a Dayton banker, Torrence Huffman, allowed the Wright Brothers to use rent-free, as they tinkered with inventing modern aviation. Beginning in 1904, the Wright bros mastered the art of controlled, powered flight in the pasture, birthing humankind’s first usable airplane. In 1904 alone, they conducted more than 100 flights with their Wright Flyer II, staying aloft a total of about 50 minutes, while nailing the very first turn and first circle by aerial humans, seeking to make like the birds above.

‘SURPRISE JETS’ | Click Video to View

Orville Wright put it most poetically: “The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who, in their grueling travels across trackless lands in prehistoric times, looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through …” We have come a long way since 1904. So it was that in the hour before Monday’s big eclipse, three fighter jets from Wright-Pat screeched across the sky like supersonic banshees. Or maybe we have not come a long way — when you ponder what those jets would mean if they were coming for your country in wartime.


“… No matter how much I describe it, no matter how many videos you watch, they all fall short of being able to witness this for yourself.”

~ FRED ESPENAK, from “Why a total solar eclipse is a life-changing event”

april8.2024 | photos. CLICK TO ENLARGE

Heeding the sound words of ‘eclipse chaser‘ Fred Espenak, I will not try overmuch to describe the experience of a total solar eclipse — it is indeed cosmic — but to describe the things around it. ‘Witness‘ is a good word to convey the transporting experience of the moon acting as a dimmer switch on old Sol. As the moon chewed its way through the wafer of the sun, the light upon the prairie grew paler, appearing grey, then dark blue and light purple. The eclipse began at 3:09 p.m. By the time the moon fully blocked the sun at 3:11 p.m., the bowl of the prairie looked as if it were late dusk. The horizon line looked spectacular — an orange-and-dark-blue panorama of suddenly sunset-quality clouds.


“Stuff your eyes with wonder.”


A panoramic Still-life With Elder Brother of the Huffman Prairie horizon line at full eclipse. | april8.2024 | photos

Above our heads, Venus popped into view, a glittery diamond. A sudden 3-D experience of the local universe came with it. Moments ago, there had been a flat, bright, buttery-yellow Spring sky. The exultant ‘Wow! factor arrived with totality. Eclipse glasses off, gazing straight up, the sun had gone dark as a crow’s back. It looked like a black bulls-eye in the sky. Yet it had a divine circular halo — the solar corona revealed — radiating white, gauzy streamers set against a blue-purplish sky. Birds, confused by the unexpected arrival of dusk or perhaps morning to their bird brains, shifted into their end-of-day — or start-of-day — playlists. Chirruping, cheeping, peeping, warbling, and trilling, they served up a fresh soundtrack for this cosmic turn of events.


“And a softness came from the starlight and filled me full to the bone.”


‘TOTALITY COOL’ | Click Video to View

My immediate family tends to comment collectively, in an ongoing, years-long group text, on the noteworthy events in our lives and in the life of the worlds we share. Here was my son, post-eclipse: “I love how astrological events bring everyone together to marvel at this beautiful universe we live in 😊. And here is my spouse, his Mom, in response: “Yep. I said to the folks around me that for just a little while thousands, perhaps millions, were looking in the same direction, marveling at the sight, no dissension, all collectively witnessing this act of nature.”

I hope that everyone who joined a congregation of eclipse watchers had a kindred experience. (Except for the 24/7, donkey’s ass, dis-information cutthroats and propagandists, as noted by Rolling Stone: ‘Fox News Tries To Make The Eclipse About Undocumented Immigration.’) Yet, post-eclipse, thrilling with fellow humans at what we had just witnessed, it was a stark reminder of how few and precious are the sweet collective experiences we now share in an America riven by engineered dispute. And how utterly important it is to be reminded of the significance of shared wonder. What a blessing to set aside, as so many of us did for a day, the artificial dissension deliberately stoked by wannabe autocrats and their toadies, seeking power through heartless division and brutish hatefulness.


Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside – remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.”



The skies have cleared. The birds have returned to their regular playlists and Eclipseapalooza is all over except for the t-shirts. And, well … 10 million social media snapshots of a startlingly transformed daytime sky, from bad to brilliant, including my own. Since the terrific ‘AHA!!!’ of witnessing my first total solar eclipse, I have — for one reason or another — raged at the dying of the light, cursed my fate, given up, revived my spirits, meditated, cursed some more, cried out miserably ‘What’s the fecking point?!?’ And recovered and fallen back in love with everything and everyone who means something dear to me.

The rockstar eclipsed sun won’t be back in these parts for decades. But, like the motorcyclist in the first photograph above — a shot taken 30 minutes after High Eclipse — I have turned the key, turned the corner, and returned back home. Where (witness the second two photos above of a West Virginia marshland that is both my therapist and current best friend) I hope to continue seeking out the wonder that wakes us up. Just like a full-on, remember-me-I’m the Universe, total solar eclipse.

RELATED: Notations before the Great Eclipse of 2024

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Great work, especially the Eclipse Experience video. The supersonic post Wright Brothers flying machines hurtling past the old flying field inspired a lot of thoughts and feelings.

Douglas Imbrogno says:

Thanks. In composing this multimedia essay, I was really struck by viewing this cosmic event in a field and place where some cosmic world history unfolded. And, then, those warships screeching across the sky … I think it’s a guy war thing …

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