Sunday, August 8, 2010

Like shining from shook foil

Last Sunday we were out on our bikes when the clouds started looking really cool.  There were huge mammatus formations across the whole southeastern sky.  Sam (who is teaching a class on light and surfaces---there's a whole lecture on clouds---which is only a small fraction of the Great Lecture on Clouds he is continually giving me, which is why I know what mammatus are, and more about sub-surface scattering and so forth than any decent person should) tends to get very excited about this sort of thing, as do I (again, sorry to bring this up again, but the comparison is apt) so of course we took off in Great Nerdy Haste to the edge of the hill where we could watch the whole thing unfold before us.

The vertical sections of cloud had that eroded, cut-away look---like the rock layers here

First the sky was kind of a pale blue, with grey clouds and the occasional bright white spot. But then the sun started to set and everything started turning gold.  Every couple minutes the colors would change and some different part of the sky would light up like slow-motion lightning.
The clouds were so massive, and threatening.  Look how they dwarf Timpanogos below them.  (And the way Timp glows red on top from their reflected light!)  It looked like some scary storm was rolling in.  (No storm materialized---but maybe there was a fire? The clouds did get that red color you see when there's smoke in the air.)
Every minute it got more beautiful and more amazing.  We just stood there gaping and gasping.  "Look, look!"  "Whoa! Look over there!"  "Look over there!"  "What does it mean?"
I kept thinking of those lines from Hopkins: "The world is charged with the grandeur of God/ It will flame out, like shining from shook foil."  Isn't that beautiful?  It's precisely right.  The way the lines of cloud glowed and trembled with the changing light, in just the same sudden, shivering way the light ripples on water, or foil.  And the air: charged.  That's it exactly.  Knew what he was doing, that Hopkins.

Or like the aurora borealis?  I've never seen it.  But I imagine it lighting the sky with this same eerie glow.

6 comments:

  1. Okay - that was the same night we low-landers all were drawn out of doors and into the street, that weird orange light (didn't look gold to us - but an odd sort of yellow tangerine). And we were looking around for what was coming, because it felt like MO. just before a tornado. There was something to the air - a tightness? Too much quiet? But nothing ever happened. We couldn't see the clouds for the trees, but your shots show me what I missed. Yes, like the cliffs in the South eastern desert. Magnificent and a little terrifying.

    Does all this make us nerdy too? Please? And Murphy also is simply all over sub-surface scattering (a thing which I am resisting on principle). What an amazing evening you must have had. But how disappointing that it never turned into even a tiny storm after-all.

    Of COURSE Hopkins knew what he was doing. I wish I knew what he looked like.

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  2. By the way, how can anybody fault a guy for seeing something like this and asking, "What does it mean?" it's exactly how I feel much of the time.

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  3. K--Okay, you can be nerdy too. If you want to be. :) And yes, "what does it mean" sums it up nicely. How can you NOT ask that?

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  4. I think you pay more attention than me.

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  5. incredible! We have been doing a lot of driving through Wyoming. I-80 does not go through anything you would consider "beautiful". In an attempt to be positive someone told me that Wyoming has beautiful clouds. So this time I looked at clouds the whole time. I was astounded! The clouds were amazing.

    I really need to try some of your newly posted recipes. My mouth is watering.

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