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Another Day in the Country

The 360-degree view

© Another Day in the Country

Mom,” my daughter said when I answered the telephone, “I’ve just turned at Four Corners and you wouldn’t believe it. Remember what it used to look like?”  I did. 

Four Corners is where I’ve turned a million times, through the years, to head “up the hill,” as we called the small mountain where I lived above the Napa Valley. 

It is an uphill drive all the way, winding through towering pine trees so dense that one had no idea just how many people lived down the gravel lanes leading from the main drag.

It was always such a beautiful drive, sun slanting through the trees.

“This is the kind of place where you’d want to go on vacation,” Jana’s dad used to laugh, “and we work here!”  

Because of the fires last August in northern California, the whole topography has changed.  I can only imagine the change because I haven’t been there in well over a year. 

“Well, there are no more trees! It’s all open,’ Jana continued, “And now you see all these little valleys that you never knew were there.”  There was a brief pause and for a minute I thought we’d lost connection, “One of these days you’ll see for yourself.”

Here in Kansas, what I see these days are clouds.  Spring is such a glorious time for cloud watching in our wide-open landscape! Cumulus is the word that comes to mind to identify big blossoming billowing clouds that are the hallmark of clouds over the prairie. 

Last week, just making the short drive between Ramona and Herington, I must have stopped six times to take pictures of the clouds. 

It’s that 360-degree vista that has always thrilled the photographer in me about this part of the country.  Every direction I looked there was a gorgeous view worth capturing — all breathtakingly beautiful.

When I got back from my short excursion I went looking for the proper names of the vapor configurations I’d just photographed. 

There are so many different varieties that I was curious about what they were actually called. 

The formidable, but lovely, wall of cloud moving over Herington was called cumulonimbus with all that majestic fluff at the top and “dirty bottom clouds,” (as Uncle Hank used to say) below where it was raining.  “Click, click,” went the camera.

The western view was filled with stratus clouds and the most vivid blue sky against fields of green where the spring wheat is flourishing. “Click, click,” went the camera.

Coming out of Herington I turned toward the Hope Road just to capture more clouds. There were cattle in a sienna-hued pasture — black bodies against yellow ochre grass, burnt umber earth, cobalt blue sky. “Click, click,” went the camera.

A cow and newborn calf reclined closer to the road. I stopped the car, quietly opened the door, stood. The calf wobbled up to stand timidly. The mother got to her feet reached out to nuzzle her baby. “Click, click,” went the camera. 

Kansas scenery is so wonderful to behold. I sat there beside the road marveling at what I could see! 

“Aren’t we the lucky ducks stuck in the country rather than stuck in traffic?” I said right out loud!

Nature puts on quite a show for us all year around.  What always struck me about Kansas was the wide open sky, the 360 degree view as far as your eye can see. And in the spring, with all the changeable weather patterns, the clouds are amazing. What I want to know is, “Have you looked up to see?”

Living in California I got used to a more enclosed view. Living on a mountain meant your view was limited. While the sky above could be beautiful, the trees, the shade, the valley floor took precedence.

The photo ops that made me stop the car to take a picture were of roads meandering through beautiful trees or coming down the mountain and I’d see the Napa Valley below, filled with clouds that looked like whipped cream covering the vineyards until the sun would come out and “burn it off.” 

That’s the kind of burn off you like to see, fog melting, sunlight streaking through and claiming the territory.

And then we’d come to Kansas where the sky was wide open and most often filled with clouds.

I’ve snapped so many sunset pictures through the years that I considered making a whole Shutterfly photo album filled with sunset pictures and then realized that most sunset shots require clouds to really be spectacular!

So, I made a book called “Clouds.” I had trouble with the 100 page limit and here I was, out again, on another day in the country photographing clouds, “click, click, click!”

Last modified March 25, 2021

 

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