Pay Attention to the Open Sky

I’ve written before about looking up, skyward, and how the spaciousness and unfathomable expansion brings up a mixture of feelings within me: awe, hope, and sometimes even a sense trepidation that I can’t quite understand. Like last week’s pink flume of cloud that rose at sunset making my world feel supernatural until, gazing at it too long, I had a momentary shudder at the realization that it looked like an apocalyptic mushroom cloud of doom. Then I pulled myself together and willed myself to enjoy the good old-fashioned changing sky of a perfect nightfall.

For the last few nights dusk’s draping has been dramatic. When the skies have been cloudless it is almost as if it gets brighter just before the sun dips; that there is an urgent luminescence before the sun disappears, and a stillness too as the wind drops to nothing.

My bedroom window looks east where the light lingers longest. There, the outline of tenement rooftops become the silhouette of children in an old black and white school photograph. These are the nights when the sky has been dipped into pale blue dye fading, then intensifying at the ends where the colour drips out.

Yesterday, at six in the evening, I was walking in the east end of Edinburgh’s Princes Street when four jets passed overhead. They flew close together in parallel leaving fingernail scrapings of contrails in the sky. It was a terrible beauty, an animalistic plea. Fifteen minutes later I was walking the other way, and the deep scratch had loosened into something less painful. Now it was more of a pathway, a flight into darkness but with a rising float of faith and optimism. I can read a lot into a sky!

The loss of daylight at this time of the year never fills me with much happiness, and yet I feel most hopeful at the end of the day when the sky cracks with colour and sends me messages. If I’m feeling a bit hopeless during the day, it’s often the evening sky that changes my mood for the better, which makes me think that I may not be such an enemy of the darkness as I make myself out to be. The maestro, John McGahern, knows why. This is a line from his book, Memoir, that I explains it better than I ever could: “We come from darkness into light and grow into the light until at death we return to that original darkness. Those early years of the light are also a partial darkness because we have no power or understanding and are helpless in the face of the world. This is one of the greatest mysteries of childhood. Mercifully, it is quickly absorbed by the boundless faith and energy and the length of the endlessly changing day of the child. Not even the greatest catastrophe can last the whole length of that long day.”

There’s nothing like the dimming of the evening sky to mop up one’s great or small catastrophes from the day.  Pay attention to the open sky, it will reward you.

For A Dancer, Jackson Browne

Keep a fire burning in your eye

Pay attention to the open sky

You never know what will be coming down

I don’t remember losing track of you

You were always dancing in and out of view

I must’ve always thought you’d be around

Always keeping things real by playing the clown

Now you’re nowhere to be found

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