Tuesday, September 05, 2017

A Sucker for Wispy Clouds

There was an eclipse back in August, and though I was theoretically within driving distance of a place with 100% totality, I was happy enough to stay at home and remember another eclipse experience back in the '70's. I was happier still when I learned that my area was still in the path of the eclipse at 90%. That seemed sufficient to me at this point in my life. I didn't buy eclipse glasses, I didn't make a pinhole viewer. There'd be plenty of pictures posted on line to view. I just wanted to sit outside on my deck and experience what else happens in an eclipse when you're not staring at the sun and jostling with crowds chattering and oohing and aahing. Yes, I am becoming quite the anti-social grumpy old lady.

It did not get as dark as I thought it would, but it was a very eerie sort of darkening that left me squinting and wondering what was wrong with my eyes until I realized the sun was nearing that 90% totality. Then at 90% it felt more like I had donned my sunglasses, and the air got chill. It is nothing like when the sun is obscured by a passing cloud. It does not get shady or shadowy, nor even dusky like when the sun sets. It just dims in a very unnatural way while errant rays still light up the surroundings.

I admit to feeling a little let down when I realized the moon's shadow was moving on. After all the hype in the run-up to this event, my experience, while interesting, was a little ho hum, nothing to write about, not much to even talk about, certainly no photos to share. The day continued rather uneventfully, me getting back to the ordinary things I do each day. Returning from my evening walk, sun having just gone behind the mountain, I chanced to look up at a sky now filled with wispy clouds. Now this is worth grabbing my camera for, I thought, and so I did. I took pictures from all angles, zoomed in and zoomed out. I turned a circle in my looking and snapping, and by the time I'd circled back to my first view, the clouds had changed, as they do, and I snapped some more. I stood outside for a long time watching the show, just white wispy clouds and me, not even any sunset colors tinging them, and thought, "This is every bit as good, maybe better, than watching that eclipse.

And I nearly forgot to share them with you.

Sandpoint with the dark purple rating - that's me

Seeing them again is a comfort on the second day of being socked in by smoke blowing in from major forest fires to the east. Yesterday my town's air quality was the worst in the country, and that's saying something where so many areas are dealing with the highest ratings of "hazardous" which is itself the top of the chart, kind of Defcon 1. I can't see the mountain across from me, which is probably 2 miles away. It looks like heavy fog or low clouds, but take one step outside and the breath you take is of acrid smoke. I could even smell the smoke inside the house yesterday when I got up, and that was with no windows or doors open, just what the winds were forcing through the cracks. With little wind today, I can see it lingering between the pines behind my development like mist. Although I know I am in no immediate danger from a fire, and as long as I stay inside, no immediate danger to my health, it still makes me uneasy to look out the window and see nothing has changed. And that we still have to wait another day until the change in weather patterns shifts the winds once more and clears some of this out.

My corner of the world. From

In reality though, the entire west is inundated with fires and the air quality in the states surrounding mine whose fires are responsible for most of my smoke is just as bad. A line from a certain song keeps playing in my head - any way the wind blows - because it really is true that we can get more smoke no matter which way the wind is coming from. This problem extends south into California as well. Looking at the map, one can see nowhere to go to escape it. Like the other areas of our country dealing with flooding and hurricanes, it's hard to know where safe shelter might be. So we hunker down where we are, unless told to evacuate, hope for the best, and wait for the weather to change.

And perhaps look at pictures of clouds from a clearer day, clouds which I no longer wonder how I could render in my fiber pieces. These ethereal ones cannot be properly captured there. These wispy clouds must always fly free.



Lucia Sasaki said...

Dear Sheila, thanks for your account of the eclipse day there in US. Here in Brazil it was an uneventful day, at least for me. I hope that you can quickly be helped if the quality of air worses. And hearing bad new through TV about the hurricane in Houston (schocking scenes!) I hope you can stand unscathed.
Thanks a lot for getting in touch!

The Idaho Beauty said...

Lucia, the air cleared a lot over the weekend and I've been out walking and sketching again. Can't waste a single smoke-free or nearly smoke-free day as they say we may get more again depending on which way the wind blows. Still a lot of wildfires burning in the states around me. The hurricanes in the gulf (Houston and now Florida) are far far away from me but we do see the irony of one part of the country tinder dry with little rain all summer and another part with more water than they can handle. Lots of disasters in other parts of the world right now too - it's almost too much to wrap one's head around. But I am safe right now and have no loved ones in those flooded areas. Hope you are safe and well too.