Walking the shimmering skin of the earth
(Part 2 of 2; here’s the other one)
As to scenery (giving my own thought and feeling),
while I know the standard claim is that Yosemite,
Niagara Falls, the Upper Yellowstone, and the like afford
the greatest natural shows, I am not so sure but that the
prairies and plains, while less stunning at first sight,
last longer, fill the esthetic sense fuller, precede all the rest,
and make North America’s characteristic landscape.
—Walt Whitman, Specimen Days, 1879
The realm of high mountain peaks has so often felt like the prime place to experience the meeting of earth and sky—all those jagged summits piercing the atmosphere, their sheer power (primal earth) stirring sky to respond, calling forth great explosions of cloud and bringing down the rains from on high. Yet: today I see the folly—and dare I say the maleness—of that narrow view of the eternal dance of sky across earth under sky. For now, all around/under/within me, a very different and equally powerful union is taking place: the skin of the earth is rippling at the wind’s touch.
Here, at the bottom of the sky, rolling hills blanketed with supple grasses shimmer under a day-long caress of the hundred-mile winds of the plains. On a nearby slope, nearly backlit by the mid-day sun, large-scale patterns show the wind moving steadily left to right. Yet within this flowing motion are countless smaller and constantly shifting shimmerings, bright patches within the larger patterns, slipping and sliding across the hills: expanding disappearing returning trembling. This play of light is dynamic and detailed, riveting and subtle to the very edges of perception in ways that call to mind the ionic exuberance of the northern lights.
Drawing my gaze in, to the prairie carpet closer at hand (foot), Read the rest of this entry