Watching the Sky

I’ve loved the sky ever since I was a kid. But that doesn’t mean I ever took very much notice of it.

Sure, I’d be surprised and awed by the sudden appearance of a magnificent sunrise or sunset once in a while.  Dramatic storm clouds would grab my attention, but only till the storm passed.

Most of the time, I’d be focused on what was in front of my nose, or between my nose and the ground, without noticing what was happening overhead. Who cares? Most of the things I’m doing and people I’m seeing and places I’m going, are down here.
Sometimes at the end of the day I would realize that I couldn’t remember whether it had been cloudy or clear — even if I’d been outdoors most of the day!

All of that changed on the afternoon of August 23, 1989, at 7:32 pm, somewhere in my back yard.  I was pulling weeds in the garden, checking for bugs and tidying up the landscape.   I noticed a crimson light coming across the flowers and happened to glance up. There, hanging on the treetops by the neighbor’s fence, was the most fiery red banner of billowy cloud I had ever seen, unfurling itself across the sky in slow,  silent, and mesmerizing dance.

The sky had been crystal clear ten minutes earlier! (As far as I remembered.) My mouth dropped open, as I recall, and I ran into the house to get my camera, then climbed up on the roof to get a photograph.

After that awakening, I started to pay a little more attention to the sky, hoping to catch some more of these elusive displays. I wasn’t disappointed. I discovered the sky was more interesting than I had realized, and that things were happening all all the time,  apparently just waiting for someone to notice.

Not just sunlit clouds coming out of nowhere, but strange iridescent clouds, halos, rainbows, and sun dogs, spectacular shapes and colors and moving layers of different clouds,  odd coincidences of light, air, rain, sun, spark, wind and storm that confound description.  Weird upside-down clouds that seem to be falling down to the earth. Gust fronts and roll clouds and wind eddies and lightning out of clear blue skies. The embryos of majestic thunderstorms in the most innocuous puffy summer clouds.
I found myself amazed that I had never noticed any of this things before.

I began to carry a camera everywhere I went. I quickly learned that when a sky show takes place, it doesn’t announce itself ahead of time, and it usually happens when you’re doing other things. I also learned that I don’t really need to go out and chase the weather; I just stay in one place and, by paying attention to the sky, allow the weather to come to me.
Living in Kansas City, Missouri probably doesn’t hurt. A local proverb is,  “If you don’t like the weather here,  just wait five minutes!” But on the other hand, I have encountered just as many amazing and spectacular sky happenings everywhere else I have traveled, all over the world.

And it all was pretty easy. All I had to do is to remember to pay attention!

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