Friday, February 4, 2011

Stories from the Road -- Somewhere Under the Rainbow

After a weeklong visit to Wisconsin last summer, two friends and I returned to Oklahoma a little tired and a little burned. A storm had developed on the last leg of the trip, and it was beginning to move off to our southeast. I decided to stop in Guthrie, OK, for a snack and to watch the sky for a bit. It was a good thing; there was quite a show.

Aside from the lightning, which itself was memorable, the sun began to sneak out to the west of the anvil. A sharp rainbow appeared immediately, and a secondary rainbow soon was visible. The sky itself turned a brilliant orange color, a type of orange that only Oklahoma sunsets seem to muster. Here we are, sitting in an Arby's parking lot, in a very unmemorable location. And now...well, now, it is forever etched in my mind.

Oklahoma sunsets are unlike anywhere else. The perfect conditions: a flat horizon, plenty of dust from the west, and a tendency for clouds of various types. Dry enough that a beautiful sunset is frequent. There have been nights where the clouds prefer a beautiful purple hue; others where yellow and orange are dominant. On the really good days, all are visible. The sunset here was predominantly orange, but more memorable than most because of the dual-rainbow.

Sunsets are all about evolution. Every second the sky is changing, and it can be easy to forget that when you're drawn into the initial image that made you pay attention in the first place. Soon, the sun has set, and you only have a few photos to remember it by. Sadly, this is exactly what happened to me on this night. Most nights, actually.

We were treated to many great sunsets on this trip. One was from Little St. Germain Lake in Wisconsin (shown below). Rain always seems to be a factor for me. With this one, a light rain was falling as the sky decided to show every single color a sunset is capable of making. With the spreading waves from each raindrop on the otherwise calm lake, the picture-perfect sunset was born.

Another was in the town of Escanaba, MI, during our Upper Peninsula lighthouse tour. The sky was a brilliant blue for most of the evening, after a very rainy morning and early afternoon. The clouds were slow to disintegrate, making for a postcard image along Lake Michigan at the end of the day. Add in a sun dog and a stunningly gorgeous lighthouse, and you have a sunset dreams are made of.

I guess a sunset was a very fitting end to our trip. And Oklahoma -- well, I'm not sure the scenery topped that of the North Woods, but the sky sure tried its best to outdo it.

Sightseeing is not just a "surface experience". Looking up is often just as rewarding. Most of the greatest photos of nature have about half the image devoted to the sky. The sky can transcend the scenery. The I-35 exit to Guthrie is a totally forgettable place. A gas station or ten, a few fast food restaurants, and the sound of truck engines do not make for a travel memory. The sky took care of that.