The Wasatch Behind: Blue sky of eastern Utah
Yesterday I topped the ridge between Nine Mile Canyon and Whitmore Park going west. It is a steep climb to the summit going in that direction. The canyon is narrow and the road is dusty, rough, and washboardy.
I hadn't been paying close attention, and it was a shock when I crested the summit and began the gentle decent into the wide mountain valley of Whitmore Park. The wide, blue sky of eastern Utah hit my windshield like a bucket of water.
The whole world opened up as I left the narrow canyon and crested the ridge. A rolling carpet of sage, spruce, and quaking aspen stretched for miles to the horizon. And the sky was an incredibly deep, cobalt blue with several mighty columns of whipped cream clouds towering high into the heavens. The clouds were a dozen shades of white all in the same column. There was cold snowball white, soft cottonball white, dusty flower petal white, and bright neon white, all in the same formation. The sight took my breath away and reminded me of what a lucky fellow I am to live under such a sky.
Most of the world doesn't have our eastern Utah sky. In much of the world the sky is smog color, a featureless, greasy film without clouds or character. When you can see the sky in those smoggy places, it is sometimes blue, but not the deep-ocean blue we get here on the Wasatch Behind.
I have seen the sky in other climates, in other hemispheres, and in other states and countries. In those other places the sky is most often a pale, robin egg blue, or a thin, washed-out, whitish shade of blue. The sky has no depth in those other places. It is only a thinly painted ceiling over a world where no one ever looks up.
The clouds too, in those pale-sky places, are generally thin and wimpy. They don't have the power to grab your imagination and hold your attention for very long. Thin clouds in a washed-out sky never make a lasting impression. They are functional and not aesthetic. They bring wind and rain, dust and storm, and then they are gone and no one remembers what they looked like.
In those other places, the clouds and the sky are one. They fade in and out of each other in an endless, monotonous procession that no one gives a second glance or a second thought too. The sky is not a part of the earth and the environment. It is only an empty, open space above the buildings where smoke disappears and balloons go to die.
But in eastern Utah, the sky and the clouds are different. The sky is a deep, royal blue and the clouds are healthy, strong, and a part of the landscape.
Here in rural Utah the clouds boil and tumble across the sky. They tower high into the heavens and then spill over the horizon. The sky has endless depth with ragged, mountaintop edges.
Clouds move across our sky with a purpose, boundless and free, with an energy and life all their own. And they are constantly changing, becoming pillows, then pillars, then soft lumps of cotton or sculptured ice cream. To the child within us, they become plants and animals, cartoons, cars, and funny faces.
Sometimes our clouds are lit with an electric glow that seems to radiate from within. And sometimes, all the colors of the rainbow are manifest in the warm glow of the inner fire. The clouds blush red and pink in the afternoon setting sun, or turn a deep purple as thunderstorms gather. They have purpose and personality: providing rain, cool wind, blessed shade in the noontime, and then they play hide-and-seek with the moon.
Our gemstone sky and silver-lined clouds set the mood for life and living in rural Utah. They add a touch of splendor to everyday living. Nowhere in the world is there another sky like ours.
Every day, our wonderful western sky provides a free lightshow that is beyond fireworks, and sadly, most people never notice. The sky adds background music to our lives that only some people hear, and few people respond to.
Look up, ye who are heavily laden, and rejoice. The wonders of life, nature, and creation are before you in the sky.