Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking..." *

Driving a steady 77 miles an hour, directly west, along approximately 45 degrees north latitude, late in the day, in early February is an interesting experience (...as is having your GPS tell you to 'turn left, then continue 183 miles...').

It takes literally several hours of driving to realize that the sun—while setting—is doing it extremely slowly because you are actually keeping up with it, more or less. You are tangibly experiencing the curvature of the earth, retarding the apparent rate at which the sun approaches the horizon at a very acute angle.

This long, delicately drawn out process was ethereal and almost hallucinatory. Compounding the strangeness was a complex weather pattern that seemed to balance diminishing daylight with diminishing cloud cover, revealing ever more patches of luminous sky. This weird, constant readjusting of light and dark took place over my entire traverse of I-90.

By the time I turned north into the Ft. Pierre grasslands, the sun's presence was reduced to a single patch of crimson at the horizon. But like some companion that did not wish to be dismissed so easily after our shared journey together, it stepped up the show to a new level, seemingly for my benefit alone.

Instead of slipping below the horizon to be dimmed and snuffed for the day, the crimson began slowly expanding and spreading along the sky. The remnants of the sun peeked from beneath the bottom edge of a wide band of snow clouds, igniting the blowing streamers of virga that drifted from the cloud bottoms. Now, from behind the grey and white rolling hills, bands and streamers of fiery reds and crimsons and magenta seemed to leap to the sky, as though the very grasses were ablaze; and as though to compound the illusion, as I stopped to watch, the fiery band spread in both directions along the distant hilltops. I was as much like distant fires as anything I have ever seen, blowing on the frozen winds along the prairies.
And then it was gone.

*If ever there was a perfect synchrony of music and event, "Time" was one of the few songs to come in clearly on the radio while this experience of chasing the sun WAS OCCURRING. The universe has a sense of humor, I think.

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