Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Morning Thanks--caramel sundaes
I give up. I've been after it for just about seven years or so now--almost sounds biblical. I've spent countless Saturday mornings chasing beautiful prairie dawns, trying to find the best angle, the perfect blends of foreground subjects against endless horizons, trying to create perfectly unforgettable compositions of yawning prairie openness. I've tried harvest fields, acres of flowing golden tassles, swooping drifts of snow to rival fine impressionist art. I've aimed my cameras--more than one, too--at breathtaking vistas on dawns and dusks that deftly featured just enough clouds for rich bouquets of heavenly colors. I've witnessed the high drama of disintegrating thunderstorms against the dawn. I've risked my cameras trying to capture the incandescence of a skies so bright neither me nor it can see.
I've seen beauty, lots of it, but I've never been able to take it home. Now I know for sure I never will.
Where there is nothing at all, there is often really something. Countless Great Plains poets have written such things, and they're not wrong. For years I've been trying to capture the essential beauty of something that simply can't be captured--the beauty and grace of the wide expanse of openness out here at the emerald edge of the Great Plains. I've wanted to get it in a camera, even though hundreds before me have tried--sometimes with brushes, sometimes with SLRs--and have long ago confessed their failures. The stark beauty of the Great Plains simply can't be rendered on paper or canvas, because, at its best, there's simply nothing there.
Two nights ago I was present at the Van Gogh of Great Plain sunsets. We were high above the reservoir that the Missouri River has become as the sun slipped peaceably away behind the big dark shoulders of the western valley, the sky, the endless sky, a gargantuan caramel sundae.
Hawaii sunsets are to die for, people say; Lake Michigan dawns, I know, can simply take your breath away. I won't try to outbid other times and places, but neither will I accept second place. The psalmist says "the heavens declare the glory of God." They do. Monday night, they sang and preached. They offered sacrament. The skies that night had us on our knees.
I love this rendition, the picture above, the best my camera and I can offer; but I swear, this ain't the half of it. You had to have been there.
And therefore, I'm giving up. I know now, for sure, that I can't do it. Taking home all that beauty simply can't be done. It's a job that takes more than the very finest Nikon. I honestly don't think any human can get it done.
That doesn't mean I won't keep trying. I certainly won't stop looking, and I'll try to be out there whenever I can. That I can't catch magnificence in a lens doesn't mean that just being witness isn't itself a rich, caramel- sundae blessing. Trust me. It's much bigger than what you see here.
Truth, I mean--and beauty.
This morning thanks is for nothing more than having been there.