I thought I knew what a beautiful sky looked like, because I think all skies are beautiful. Every cloud is a work of art.
I grew up in New York where the Adirondack mountains shine dark green and majestic on the horizon. In autumn, the foothills are dotted with deep pine green that peeks out from amazing shades of orange, red, and yellow color. Puffy white clouds, can be imagined into puppy dogs, butterflies, and cars. On hot August evenings, dark storm clouds full of their own light, explode with sounds of thunder and crackling lightening.
When I lived in the mid-west, the sky opened up, and became even bigger. Great soaring sightlines that go on for days, accented by water-wheel irrigation equipment fanning out like a spider-web under the deep blue skies and super high wispy white clouds. I sit out in my yard, on the old frayed lawn chair, lean back, listen to the wind rushing through the corn stalks, dry and ready for harvest, look up, and imagine a whole world up there.
Then, I step off the plane in Kenya, Africa.
Every day I travel through seven different countries on this continent, I fall in love with a new cloud. Sometimes four or five a day, my love is so fickle, and the clouds formations so fleeting. I sit for hours, staring out the window of the hulking noisy safari truck, face pressed to the dirty glass, craning my neck to see as much of the horizon as I can. I am not looking for the giraffes, the elephants, the wildebeest, or even the lions, but for the clouds.
The absolute beauty of the sky brings tears to my eyes. My traveling companions tease me; when they see a puff of dandelion floating by, they call to me, “Come look at this amazing cloud!” But I just shrug my shoulders and point to the real cloud. The one right over there, edged in a deep almost royal blue surrounding a dark grey center, with pristine white pillow clouds behind it, as if to give it a beautiful frame to shine through. The sun peeking around all the edges gives the entire vista a golden glow. No wait, it’s three minutes later and the glow is more a russet red tone now.
It’s rainy season so every afternoon the clouds float across the sky in giant columns of black, blue, purple, and grey. Passing up over the mountain tops in the distance, great sheets of rain, reflecting the sun from the other side of the valley, glistening like giant curtains of silver draped from the heavens.
Gorgeous clouds, heavy with rain, reflect back to earth the light of both sunset and sunrise. I wake to the beautiful golden glow of the rising sun, the clouds above me splendid in hues of yellow and orange. I end each day, resting easy with a glass of wine, sitting on a damp green canvas camp chair, under a sky that is striped with red, purple, yellow, gold, and orange. Colors I have never seen before and fear I will never see again. My skin, dewy from the heat, shines golden too, as if I have become part of the sky.
I thought I knew what a beautiful sky looked like. Then, I stepped off the plane in Africa.