Somewhere Between Awe and Anxiety

The open prairies of the West can be an invitation to meditative solitude for those who like to gaze to the uninterrupted and distant horizon, the boundary between earth and sky.  Many, including yours truly, find comfort in such places.  That doesn't mean that I envy the rugged ways of the ranchers who live out here; however, I do envy their daily presence in this environment.  Many is the time in my present world of horn-blowing tail-pipe sniffers that my mind wanders to the open prairies and their sagebrush, antelope and swooping harriers, or even a sight seen by few humans, the murmuration of a flock of Franklin's gulls.  But the prairies aren't for everyone; I've known urbanites who were frightened by the emptiness, the absence of lights and cars, especially at night when the only lights were stars or a few distant ranch house beacons.

There is, however, a special awareness of place for anyone when a summer storm sweeps across the plains. The fast-moving clouds roll, reshape and send tentacles earthward as if stroking the ground with rain before morphing back into shapeless darkness. The Norseman, Thor, might hurl a lighting bolt or two as he rides along in the atmospheric rodeo.  All is good as long as the ominous forms remain afar, between observer and horizon.  But when the air pressure drops and the wind gains momentum, one's sense changes from awe to anxiety, especially if shelter isn't close by.  As the creator of this image, I can attest to the feeling that comes from having no refuge in the face of such power.  And I've sat on my porch during a hurricane!  Not the same!  An approaching prairie storm is a very different situation for a lone person in the open, but even with the anxiety and sense of isolation, it's still an awesome sight!