Freedom News
total eclipse in the USA April 2024


from Surviving Leviathan

Night is falling for the second time today.

The totality lasted for about 4 minutes. We were right in the middle of the epicenter’s path across North America. A terrible moonshadow ripping through the day. Things were already weird. Devices not working. Batteries losing charge. Bird song more enthusiastic and then veering to perturbed. We got down to our little lake shortly before the partiality started. The water was moving in a way it never does, like a flattened eddy or a tidal shift in an estuary. Then the moon started moving in front of the sun. 1:59.

With our glasses, shielded to block out all weaker light, we could see the sun as an angry orange in a black field. The moon, a distinct orb, distinctly closer to us, was visible only where it blocked a rounded portion of the fire. The bird song intensified. Blackbird. Grackle. Blue jay. Starling. Sparrow. Junco. Cardinal. Robin. Only a single woodpecker seemed interested in eating. His hammering echoed amongst the trees. Pairs of ducks and geese flew one way, then another, unsure where to go. Turtles slipped off logs back into the water as the light softened and turned strange.

Then the fish started jumping. They jump most days, in the twilight of dawn or dusk. They jump to catch insects, or escape bigger fish, or to manifest a little joy, a need to stretch. This was something different. What they were doing was different. Raising fins into the air and wagging them. Jumping as high as they could again and again and again. In two hours more fish jumped than in the two years prior I’ve shared with this lake. R and I alternated between the spectacle of the fish and the dark orb of the moon, which, after about an hour’s progress, only left an angry fingernail of sun uncovered.

The totality hit like a sudden wall of night. 3:13. The sky was dark. The land was dark. The encircling horizon was a band of half-light the same hue in all directions. Which was nonsensical, like each direction were an actor without cues, none sure who was to play dawn, or if this was the sunset act, all of them covering for each other but inadequately.

And up above, high in the sky—R and I both abandoned discretion or safety in that moment: mouths open, we looked—Death’s Crown, a corona of white fire, a paper thin mane of solar flares wreathing a heart of darkness, a great black hole at the center of it all. Night time, and a black circle that burned pitch, and wisps of blinding silver arrayed chaotic and perfectly around it, high in a dark daytime sky, and all the trees and rushes and waters in the deep faded brown of early night or another century’s photographs, and silence.

Silence, the waters stilled, the birds stilled, the fish stilled. Then one creature and one creature alone burst out. The tumult of a cheering crowd at an anonymous distance, then the two of us in our hidden nook howling and gasping, another pair of watchers whooping farther down the lakeshore, then in the park across the way.

Why the exultation of our one species, and the terror or confusion of all others? Was it the gift of advanced warning, the death drive, the kind of geopolitical daily life that would make us grateful for an end, any end, the reflex of people too stifled to be people who obediently party given any excuse…? or the deep seated knowledge that the apocalypse will be beautiful and we are ready for it like we know it’s already here and in the meantime we will find the beauty and the purpose and the defiance and the chance for unraveling in every single day.

When the light came back it came back quickly. Objectively measured the partiality before and after the totality was the same length of time but time also bends and afterwards all one can say is it moved quicker. The fish jumped but calmly now. Birds were landing rather than flying over. Their chirping asserted a shaken stability rather than asking an exuberant question. Humans were already walking their dogs again, the dogs a thermometer with wagging tails but no mercury.

Back at the house the cats—unwarned—were wide-eyed and frightful like the accounts of medieval peasants caught by an eclipse unprepared and unanswered. Honestly I would have panicked and howled far more than the cats living through something like that unadvised, unaided by the commonplace explanations and graphics few of us understand in any deeper way but all of us trust when we need to.

No one really knows a thing about the world, but the ones who can predict an eclipse, that’s the church we’ll go to, no matter where we spend our Sundays. So Flat Earthers fly in airplanes without a whiff of incoherence. Everyone believes in physics when they’re looking for results and not a story.

And physics knows almost everything about the world. They’re finding the final answers, as close to the totality of it as they were in 1894, when Albert Michelson offered his valuable prediction.

But the scientific explanations for why people still look for stories are about as trite as they come. The graphics insulting to the intelligence of those who provide them and those who find comfort in them, a more flagrant life raft than Heaven.

For once you’ve felt the crazy edge, once you’ve found ways to return there, trite will never satisfy again. Comfort doesn’t comfort. And in the unprotected expanse of the ocean wild, what one reaches for isn’t safety, but the depths.

~ Peter Gelderloos

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