Of the Blue Colour of the Sky

That title’s a nod to my oldest daughter . . . and her favorite record. (see, I do know music from this century!)

This week I grew more than a little jealous of my kids.  Not because of their youth, or their exuberance, or their innocence or even the fact that, even today, after losing their mother two years ago, they think they’re immortal…invincible.  Those are all good, but I’ve been there.

And there’s still part of me that’s like a little kid.  I pick up a guitar and the world changes around me.  I see the notes, I hear the music and feel it all around me.  I’m a little kid who thinks someday when he grows up he’s going to be a musician, even though I’ve grown up and have a day job.

But my jealousy stems from their location.  Today all four kids are in Nebraska, my home state.

I know people on the left and ride sides of the continent are scoffing now, laughing, derision in their eyes.  Liberals see only red states.  Conservatives see honor.

I see home.

It’s not just that my family is all in that state, though.  There is just something about where I grew up that is nothing like anywhere else.

Joel Sartore pic of Holmes Lake Park.
Joel Sartore pic of Holmes Lake Park.

The skies in that state are gorgeous.  The blue is electric, and after a thunderstorm . . . the sky is alight with colors that you thought would never hit your retinas in nature.  I’ve lived in Denver, Dallas, Sacramento, and others.  I’ve visited places around the world.  I’ve seen amazing sights and felt wondrous emotions.

But sunset where I grew up is like nothing else.  Violet and blue, melding into each other.  After a thunderstorm, the violence of nature crashing into itself, with flashes of brilliant forks dancing across the clouds, the sky gives itself to the release of the storm.  A shelf of grey and black will ride away as the sun dips below the clouds.  The orange of the sunlight reflecting off the bottom of the shelf, creating a dance of red, pink, electric and royal blues . . . and hues that bounce off the green of the grass below them.  The fence posts stick up in shadow as the wire between them lines a road and you lead to the sun, crawling down like it cannot leave behind the beauty it’s seeing in itself . . . until tomorrow when it crawls up for a similar, but different show.

I had a window that looked out the the North just the other side of my bed.  I used to stay up at night, looking out at the electric storms and marvel at the crash of thunder after each flash.  It bothered me the, and does to this day, how movies would show lightning and the thunder would boom with the light.  The delay helped you time how far the storm was from where you stood.

The last month the kids have seen a myriad of storms and they all marvel at them.  My wife, who grew up on the West coast never liked them.  She was scared of the sounds.  She hated the lightning and it all frightened her.  But my kids get to see and hear them and they don’t fear mother nature, they respect her.

Under a Big Red Sky by Joel Sartore
Under a Big Red Sky by Joel Sartore

They also get to see that bright blue color of the sky, even in the summer.  There’s no temperature inversion, like Denver gets.  There’s no “brown cloud” like both Denver and Sacramento have.  There’s no dusky grey haze on the grass like Texas of “golden” brown like California.

My friend Joel Sartore, a Geographic fellow and creator of the photo ark project still lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.  He won’t leave, says he never would move.  He says the same thing . . . the skies are just different there.  The land and the people and the colour of the sky are worth every minute.  He calls it “Under a Big Red Sky.”

I just call it home…and I’m glad my kids can see it that way, too.

(If you can, please check out Joel Sartore’s work, he’s brilliant, his pictures capture Nebraska and the world in intimate and important ways and he’s one of the nicest, funniest, most interesting people it’s my privilege to know!)

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