Beyond the financial benefits of gainful employment, there are few advantages to rising each morning at 4:45. This morning, though, I had the distinct pleasure of driving west before, during, and after sunrise, and was treated to one of the most glorious, ever-changing vistas of a lifetime.
At the gate I looked toward our neighbor, Bald Knob. Let stubble grow on your chin for three days, rub a soft cotton wad across it. That’s how Bald Knob looked; shreds of cottony cloud clinging to its rugged surface. All around us, pressing down, was a thick layer of low clouds. Between us and that layer were thin wisps, like dandelion fuzz wafting on a gentle breeze.
As I was heading west, I saw the real show. Hugging the base of the Mule Mountains was a layer of cloud as white and dense as a fresh snowfall. Above, the clouds dissipated over the mountains, except for one jumble, like piled white boulders, hunching at the shoulder of the highest peak. Behind it, the setting full moon slipped in and out of clouds, as I moved, or the clouds did, or both. While I crossed the valley, the sun began to rise, throwing bands of palest salmon across the sky, framing the moon.
Soon, right after I emerged from the layer of fog at the base of the mountains, the rising sun found a break in the clouds, and a golden hue dripped down from the highest peaks as if poured from a bucket.
I longed for my camera, but if I’d stopped to take pictures, it could have taken all morning, and I might have missed the progression of things. It was the combination of my forward motion and the shifting skies.
On the other side of the mountains, I passed a photographer, tripod standing on a pile of gravel, shooting toward the cloud-swathed hills to his north and east. So there would be photographs of the morning, from some angles, if not from mine.
Does humanity have a purpose on Earth? Are we here just to use up its resources, overcrowd its space, overburden its fragile systems? Where is it written that people trapped in artificial canyons of concrete, steel and glass should make decisions affecting the cleanliness of our air, the purity of our water, the despoiling of our mountaintops, the life and death of sentient creatures? These are questions for other minds to ponder. As for me, if we’re only here so that there are creatures with eyes that can see a broad spectrum of color and minds that can grasp the abstract concept of beauty for beauty’s sake, only here so there will be an appreciative audience for the splendor of nature’s magnificence, that’s good enough for me.