The Sky Is Alive


When you live in a hilly, wooded urban area like Henrico County, Va., you never see the horizon. If you can’t see the horizon, you can’t see the sun rise. One of the beauties of the beach is the wide-open sky with its sunrises, sunsets, and parades of towering, billowing clouds. I am a confirmed city dweller and will never change. But I am acutely aware that city living extracts a price: the loss of wonder at nature’s majesty.


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21 responses to “The Sky Is Alive”

  1. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    We moderns are amazed that the ancients used landmarks against their broad horizons to create time. At how they marked the passages of the seasons and their own mortality, and built their metaphysics, cosmologies, and gods.

    Some say the Christian Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Ghost – arises from the observation and study by ancient peoples of what goes on at the horizon.

    Quiet likely those goings at the horizon are key to understanding ourselves.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      “At first I thought I saw the sun setting in the east; I knew where east was, because the sun was just over the horizon when we got there that morning. Then I realized that what I saw was a full moon rising just as the sun was going down. Each of them was standing on its edge, with the most wonderful light between them. It seemed as if you could touch it, as if there were palpable currents of light passing back and forth, or as if there were great taut skeins of light suspended between them … we just stood there until the sun was down and the moon was up.”

      This was the Reverent John Aimes speaking about the time he and his father visited his grandfather grave out on the Kansas prairie, as quoted from Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead.

  2. a lot to be said about open country. I especially like sunsets on the “left” coast and sunrises in the wide open west and prairies.. as well as being able to – see a storm moving across the land – 50 miles away… or at night being able to lay on your back and watch shooting stars – and man-made satellites streak across the heavens.

    but I’m sure the Good Lord always expected us to take care of it….

  3. Breckinridge Avatar

    I’ll pass on the theology (that Trinity theory is a new one on me, but I only have a bachelor’s in religion) and note that 1) I’ll take the desert myself for gorgeous skies, given an option and 2) the sunrise view from the new 6th Richmond condo is proving quite satisfying. In just a few weeks I’ve seen the sunrise move from right beside a church steeple to several points northward. Eventually I’ll have to get off the couch to see it peek over the horizon. The door to the balcony has become my Stonehenge, marking the seasons.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      I am not making any claims for theology, pro or con. But the motifs that man uses to express his beliefs came from somewhere. The ancient mythologies, arts, literature, and architectures of man abound with motifs that he could only derive from the natural world and then inflect through his own psyche into his expression of believe systems whether ancient or modern. This short circuits no one’s prejudices or beliefs. It simply states an obvious fact.

      1. you wanna translate that into simple English?

        the ancients did not understand the heavens… their whole existance was centered around untruths about the world they lived in.

        we know some truths now – and it’s a different world for civilization.

        I would posit what was in the minds eye of primitive man with respect to the heavens was a far cry that what is in the minds eye of modern man today.

        we need LESS “beliefs” and more “reality” these days. We have too many who still act like they don’t know the realities… when you hear perfectly sane people say that because men exhale C02, that it cannot be harmful – we know we’re not dealing with modern intelligence but instead “beliefs” much like the ancients had.

  4. Breckinridge Avatar

    Sixth FLOOR condo…

  5. Breckinridge Avatar

    On strike the whole darn thing. The sunrise is moving south, not north. As I said, I was a liberal arts major. What do I know? (This will undercut all my rantings on climate issues.)

  6. geeze Breckinridge.. I dunno what to say… ummmm

    ditto on the theology though… I accept there is a “GOD” for many and I accept the premise by which he exists… in their minds despite the atrocities we commit in his name….. but I veer sharply…..

    is that the sixth condo you’ve had a sixth floor condo?


    I’m just ragging on you a bit.. I have an even WORSE problem getting the words out of brain and onto the keyboard!

    and yes.. it does give one some level of geographic/world credibility to know how the sun tracks across the sky…

    of course another good way to mess your mind up with technology now days is to set your GPS for NORTH UP rather than TRACK-UP and then see how you car moves across the map – relative to NORTH UP.. many folks simply cannot handle their car going “down” on the the GPS screen!

  7. Darrell Avatar

    When I was six or seven I used to wander off down the rail tracks a mile or more into the empty country. There was a feeling I would get out there of being the last person on earth. Looking down the tracks in front, I would watch the tree limbs swaying in the breeze, waving me to continue my journey as if unseen ancestors were calling from beyond. Looking to the rear I could sense the known comfort of the town I lived in. I suppose life’s choices have been that way for eons.

  8. Darrell –

    did you squash pennies and nickels and build “forts” in the woods too?

    were you driven to follow paths and find out what was at the other end?

    did you learn that walking in tall grass will find you large snakes?

    finally – did you ever learn how to walk naturally on railroad ties?

  9. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Darrell you didn’t lie down on the tracks, did you? That would be really nutty

  10. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Darrell you didn’t lie down on the tracks, did you? That would be really nutty

    1. Darrell Avatar

      Nah, I’m not that crazy. But I did do that one night while hitch hiking back from Charleston. Didn’t expect any cars at 3 am. Luckily he was awake cuz I wasn’t.

  11. Darrell Avatar

    Didn’t squash money cause I didn’t have any to spare. I used to take off for a week or two during summer to live in a cave and catch critters for supper. Does that count for a fort? Following paths was indeed a passion of mine. By the time I left home I knew every trail, creek and dirt road in the county. Where I grew up there were large snakes everywhere. Still the lesson came in handy in places like the Philippines, or Africa where snakes in the grass are the least of your worries. As far as railroad ties go, my ancestors used to build the tracks. The hard part is walking the rail tops naturally. I can still do it, but not as easily as I did with smaller feet. 😉

    Life is kind of funny sometimes. I’ve met many of my ancestors over the years. Most quietly reside in ghost towns, overgrown vistas, and nearly forgotten prairie plots. None appeared to be happy to stay close to parents, as each generation floated down the Ohio or migrated across Texas, OK or Kansas, following a path to see what was on the other end. Tracing my genes revealed a theology of sorts, based more on the natural world instead of supernatural.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      This is wonderful, Darrel. Thanks.

    2. caves are definitely forts! to this day, snakes give me the willies… wandering is in the genes… and further encourage by being a Marine Corps brat.

      following trails and rivers – imbibes you with an appreciation of the natural world and perspective on the human condition dealing with the natural world.

    3. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      “Ralph Waldo Emerson in “The American Scholar,” an essay often thought to be America’s intellectual Declaration of Independence. The education of the scholar was not through books alone, he said, but through the resources we have inherited from our childhood—and through the influence upon the mind of nature: “Everyday, the sun: and after sunset, night and her stars. Ever the winds blow; ever the grass grows. Everyday, men and women, conversing, beholding and beholden. The scholar is he of all men who this spectacle most engages. . . . The mind now thinks; now acts; and each fit reproduces the other …”

      This Emerson Quote was taken from “Money on the Liberal Arts” by Meredith Jung-En Woo, the Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia, found at

      Ms. Woo will soon step down as Dean. She will be sorely missed.

  12. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    “I love the prairie. So often I have seen the dawn come and the light flood over the land and everything turn radiant at once, that word ‘good’ so profoundly affirmed in my soul that I am amazed that I should be allowed to witness such a thing … Here on the prairie there is nothing to distract attention from the evening and the morning, nothing on the horizon to abbreviate or to delay. Mountains would seem an impertinence from that point of view … I love this town. I think sometimes of going into the ground here as a wild gesture of love – I too will smolder away the time until the great and general incandescence.”

    Reverent John Aimes speaking from Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead.

  13. Darrell Avatar

    Down in Texas there is a dead place on the Red River called Spanish Fort. I haven’t been there yet but some of my ancestors are in the cemetery. Spanish Fort was a shoot em up cowboy town on the Chisholm Trail. I also had relatives at the other end of the trail in Kansas. Somehow their kids managed to hook up and settle down about half way up the Trail in El Reno, OK. I have tons of cousins there I will never meet. But I did visit the cemetery.

  14. The Red River was one of the 3 American west explorations. Lewis & Clark did the northern one. Another one went up the Platte and the 3rd up the Red.

    I wonder how many people know who led the other two expeditions west?

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