Wednesday, July 1, 2015
One of the marvelous things about airplanes is that the window-framed world feels so much smaller and larger at the same time. And I never felt that sensation stronger than I did at that point, watching the sun glow over the shrouded Midwest. It looked as if it were blowing on the cloud bank, spinning it into cotton candy - powdery and silver-white, soft as a whisper. This effect made the clouds look like a wide, spinning disc, something you could nearly jump on and let it carry you away. It was like the wormhole of imagination, with a thin cloud line above and below, with a sliver of reality sandwiched in between.
Then, below, the powder faded into a sinister grey, the underbelly of a storm. It looked like piles of dust, billowing around the bottom of the stunning, spinning disc of the cloud-sun. Then, a bit of gold could seen, far off in the distance; layered, textured, beyond the reach of these cotton candy and dust-storm clouds alike, both below it but utterly out of reach in a transcendent sort of beauty.
For a moment my mind could not grasp what it was, something so eerie, so otherworldly yet so achingly beautiful. Finally it settled on something, and to my star-struck gaze it looked to me like the sun must be shining on Kansas, sending rays of light to pierce the clouds and make the fields burn gold and green.
I could not speak; I nearly choked up. As the sun set further, the wheat fields of gold melted into clouds, for it was really the beginning of a haunting sunset that I was seeing. The sun began to die and burn up the clouds in red and yellow fury, and with my elevated gaze I could see layers of clouds with layers of colors, and distantly below, I could see the best color of all - the deep, dusky red of the end of a sunset, sending rays across the misty clouds.
It is the most beautiful and most transcendent of colors because it is the most emotional. It is at the same time beautiful and mortal; a dying light is what makes it really live. It is loneliness and introspection. It is the fleeting beginning of an ending. It is the essence of bittersweet.
And as the colors faded, the flaming memory of that first wondrous glimpse stays with me; and I cannot help but reflect that perhaps my initial thought was the most honest. Perhaps, for all the cities and flatlands and barren hills, the truest picture I ever saw of my home was the one I saw in the colors of the sunset.