“The sky is an infinite movie to me. I never get tired of looking at what’s happening up there.” K.D. Lang
My mother was afraid of storms. They were sudden, frequent and furious in the South, ominous rumbles morphing suddenly into ear-splitting booms, jagged lightning and slanted, pelting rain. She would herd us to the dark interior of the house away from windows and doors until the storm subsided.
But she couldn’t get my father to take refuge. A 42-year-old confirmed bachelor by the time he married my much younger mother, he was too set in his ways to succumb to the entreaties of a woman scared of storms. Instead, he headed for the front porch and lit a cigarette.
“John, come in here, it’s dangerous out there!” my mother pleaded, argued and scolded to no avail. Thunder cracked, lightning slashed, and my father smoked and rocked and savored this display of nature’s fireworks.
I so wanted to be out there with him!
From an early age, the sky fascinated me. After school, I couldn’t wait to shed my bookbag and race to the garden, which offered the most unobstructed view. Lying on the ground and gazing up, I wondered if God could be found beyond the wispy cirrus clouds; or maybe he lived inside the great towering cumulus clouds and would reveal himself if I looked hard enough.
The night sky enthralled me even more, especially when I learned that the stars I saw might be already gone, their light reaching earth after hundreds of millions of years, so that I was actually looking into the past. The mysteries of the universe seemed hidden somewhere in that starry night, waiting to be glimpsed in a blinding moment of revelation.
“There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.” Victor Hugo
My father survived the storms he viewed from our front porch and lived to the good age of 92, when he passed away quietly in his own bed. My mother at 99 has seen so many storms that they no longer terrify her.
In my adulthood, I’ve developed a habit of snapping pictures of the sky. But the joy that wells up when I gaze at a crimson splash of sunset or see the brooding hint of a storm is too elusive to capture; mystery and elation are fleeting, and revelations don’t arrive through the lens of a camera or through my own limited vision. These glimpses of eternity fill me with a joy so profound that pictures, memories and words always fall short.
Still, I snap pictures in my attempt to capture fleeting moments.