Disappearing Act

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For the last twenty years or so I’ve been fascinated by clouds; yes, both sides. Obviously there is the beauty, particularly on both edges of the day when the sun picks up the particles in the air adding color and depth to the sky. I’ve seen clouds seemingly on fire, cauldrons of atmosphere and angle. And the whiter-than-cotton billows of scattered clouds in a cobalt blue sky never fail to save me from whatever storms come along.

Since my son was a toddler we’d wander the docks along the Chesapeake Bay or the Rappahannock River finding just the right frame for whatever palette the sky prepared that day. After a while we learned to look out the window to the west or east just before dawn or dusk and know whether to bolt out the door for the water before whatever dance the clouds were doing lost the light. Sometimes we stand for a half an hour or more, just waiting for the moment when all aspects briefly gather for the right rendition of that day’s light. Over the years Michael turned his camera toward the water, zooming in on the colors and passing reflections there, developing his own unique style.

But I never left the sky.

Window seats on planes, walks on the beach, at stoplights, at night when a cloud moves across the moon, walking to my car from the store, across the local corn fields, really–all the time, I’m checking out the sky, mesmerized by the fleeting light. The finest of moments when the colors line up like professional models at a photo shoot seem to pass faster than they arrive. The moment is gone; that convergence of all things which made that moment right, pass all too fast; but I know that, so I like to be ready for it, and enjoy every single second. Sometimes I’ll take a ton of pictures trying to get just the right one, the one that expresses itself, pulls emotions out of whoever looks at it much like the late paintings of Van Gogh did. Sometimes I just take one or two and put the camera down and take in the sky, let it wash over me, the wave of atmosphere and twilight. “Blessed twilight” Dickens called it. Yes.

I don’t know why I do this. I really thought about it and the best I can come up with is it fills my soul with some sort of permanence which, ironically, has the finest disappearing act in nature. Also, perhaps, it is a daily reminder that we are surrounded by beauty if we take the time to step outside and look around—anywhere, the cities included. The sky over Brooklyn does not sacrifice the wonder.

Everything is fleeting, everything. The ones we’ve lost touch with, the ones we talk to daily, the ones we raised and the ones who raised us, gone as fast as it takes to look away and then back again. The beautiful lives who travel through this piece of sky with us, the horizon rising so fast before us.

And even during storms they retain their beauty, still whispering from the edges of our lives just waiting for us to show up. As soon as they’re gone, though, I’m sorry I didn’t spend more time with them, and I’m learning—a bit late perhaps—to linger just a little bit longer.




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