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Whenever I’m in the desert I can’t help but think of the 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia. The scenes in that movie were intense and captured natural beauty and panoramic vistas way ahead of their technological time. There’s a particular moment when the war correspondent Jackson Bently turns to the (by then) half-mad, arab-robed Lawrence and asks him “What attracts you personally to the desert?” and he replies quite simply “It’s clean”.
Apart from the urge to stride through the sand in long flowing garments, ride camels and wear massive swords (which surely everyone has out here), there’s alot of depth to this statement. You see it’s this very cleanliness that makes the colors in the desert so very striking. From warm hues in the morning, to deep blue afternoon skies, to cascades of fire in the evening. The fact that it’s so dry and so desolate is the very reason the sunsets are so rich and intense…it’s a dichotomy of extremes, and right here the opposites attract to make a most perfect whole.
In my geekiness I can’t help but think of Rayleigh scattering, the very thing that makes our day sky blue. All of light’s colors scattered and bent by the massive natural prism that is the atmosphere giving us the daytime blue that our eyes favor the most. And the effect so deeply blue in the clearest and weakest atmospheres (deserts and mountains). It whacks me out to think that some animals actually see the sky in violet or ultraviolet…what would that be like?
But where this manifests most strongly is later in the day, where the longer orange and red wavelengths finally emerge for their sunset show. This is where the clean, dry air crystallizes and saturates colors like nowhere else. Add to that the desert winds that whip up cirrus and altocumulus clouds high in the atmosphere, posed perfectly to reflect and amplify that light, and you’ve got yourself a guaranteed 5-star view -> stunning horizon colors ramped-up ten-fold by the cloud layers above it. It aaaaallll comes together in the desert…nature’s perfect sunset storm, if you will, ready to give you a new performance every single evening.
And me? I just can’t get enough of them. Something about that afternoon fire in the sky penetrates deep into my soul and steals my heart. In that deep sea of color I happily drown. The sky expands before me and pulls me in, stilling my mind and bringing me in complete harmony, if just for a moment, with nature’s glory. It’s like a 4D IMAX movie, where all except the scene before you disappears from view and even the subconscious is taken in. And in that very instant the world stops -> a total calm, my entire life-force focused on the beauty that is the sky.
I love sunsets. It’s free mind yoga every single afternoon and it’s the kinda geeky coolness I can’t get enough of. Oh yeah and as a bonus, it makes for pretty neat pictures too
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Where Are We Today?Washoe Lake State Park, NV
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