Friday, February 18, 2011

Tag, you're it!

Lately, I have been playing tag with the sun. I leave Twin Rocks Trading Post each evening enveloped in an air of sundowner anticipation. My goal has been to photographically capture the magnificence of late winter Southwestern sunsets in the most photogenic spots along Highway 191 between my home and work. To appropriate an outstanding image of the majesty and glory of such an occurrence seems far beyond the digital capability of my little Canon Power Shot camera, but the fun has been in the chase rather than the eventual image. Most recently I have been motivated to abduct an image of the sun just as it disappears below the horizon in the west, at one particular place and time. The place is a small farm owned by the Flavels, just south of Shirt-Tail Junction, a couple miles south of Blanding.

The exact moment of sunset, as I have discovered, is relatively indeterminate, and depends on specific conditions, some of which are constant, some of which are not. Because of my quest, I have learned that technically sunset and the best time to photograph it occurs when the body of the sun is already about one degree below the horizon. Obviously the time varies throughout the year, and is determined by the viewer's position on this planet, specified by longitude, latitude and elevation. Small daily changes and noticeable semi-annual variations in the timing of sunsets are driven by the axial tilt of the earth, its daily rotation, the planet's movement in its annual elliptical orbit around the sun and the earth and moon's paired revolutions around each other. And to complicate the issue even more, to allow a show of outrageous candle power and spectral exuberance worth embracing, there needs to be an outstanding cloud base to allow for a highly distorted ray path of light from the setting sun.

For me, all of that scientific mambo-jumbo is a bit too confounding and technically disturbing to get a firm grip on. Rather, I choose to see such things in a more mythological manner, embracing the Navajo cultural significance of the close of day. This is: One day after a ceremony based on the coming of age of a young girl and a naturally immature boy, the People watched in amazement as the earth swooped down and the sky swooped up and bumped each other. From that exact spot sprang forth Coyote and Badger, brothers and children of Mother Earth and Father Sky.

Ma'ii, Coyote, chose to stay and linger among the Surface People, causing chaos and forcing them out of their comfort zones. Nahashch'id, Badger, on the other hand, dug a hole in the ground and to this day remains mostly out of sight. His role is one of support, harmony and balance. So now, every time I see a sunrise or sunset I think of the birth of Coyote and Badger. They cause me to contemplate the clash of cultures going on around the world; disagreement, discord and fighting, and the opposite side of the coin too, which includes compassion, unity and compatibility. These natural occurrences cause me to consider the constant contact between those of an indifferent attitude and those of a concerned nature.

On one particular day I was speeding north, listening to the evening news on the car radio and frowning at the discontent around the globe. Coyote was a busy boy on this particular day. I was also keeping an eye on the western horizon, appreciating the sporadic cloud cover and hoping my timing was in sync with the sun's downward descent. This was my lucky day, the sun and I arrived at the farm at precisely the same moment! I whipped the Previa around, popped out of the car, clomped through the mud to the fence and began taking pictures. The sunset was amazing, the western horizon was ablaze in colors of red, orange, yellow and black. The lone windmill and barren tree were back-lit by the display; they appeared cold, lonely and forlorn. The contrast was perfect. The image in my mind will remain forever. The picture? What one might expect of a pocket camera. I stood admiring the view until the lights went out and the glow faded.

Making my way back through the goo, I climbed back into the van, checked traffic and swung the vehicle back around in a northerly direction. Just as I regained highway speed and passed Shirt-Tail Junction, I recognized an oncoming diesel truck, a big refrigerated unit being towed by a massive Kenworth tractor. Because of the curve of the road and the speed of the approaching behemoth, I moved further to the right side of the roadway to give the big boy plenty of room. As the truck and my van closed on each other I caught a glimpse of movement sprinting, low and fast across the highway from north to south. I gasped as I recognized a badger moving quickly in my direction. I witnessed the truck barely miss the creature, but I was bearing down quickly and feared the worst possible outcome. Because of the oncoming truck I dared not slam on the brakes or swerve right or left. I unintentionally humped-up in my seat and drove right over the top of the poor beast as I was buffeted by the passing big rig.

Oh Man! I thought to myself, I just upset the harmony and balance of nature and the human race by leaving an imprint of Badger's metaphorical meaning smashed on the asphalt. My dismay at the demise of such a benevolent creature caused me to slow down and turn around at the next side road. I felt I should at least remove the poor thing from the highway and give him a proper burial. Returning to the spot where I interrupted the forward motion of the creature caused me confusion, there was nothing there! I knew for a fact the car had run right over the top of the badger. I had not felt a bump, but I figured that was because I was so intent on avoiding the truck that I had not recognized it. To be sure there was nothing there. Just then I saw movement to the south, there, striding in traditional badger fashion across the stubble of the hay field went the badger. He had survived! The creature must have flattened himself on the roadway at the last possible second and allowed the van to pass right over. Seriously? The fate of man and nature would survive after all. Coyote would not have the upper hand and eventual downfall of humankind would not occur. I had not disrupted the life of one of God's precious creatures. Hallelujah! "Tag, you're it, you lucky devil!" I yelled after the retreating Badger. He paid me no never mind.

With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

1 comment:

bruceaedwards said...

Hey Barry,

Beautiful picture --must have done something right, eh?!

Bruce and Sue Edwards