Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Gray Light of Dawn

Thursday morning, Valentine's Day, we woke to snow. "Here comes the gray light," the Husband said. As every morning, we sipped tea or coffee and watched the light steal across our world. Ever so slowly, the ridge of the hogback took shape out of the gray light, but it was a tentative presence, never becoming solid. Can you see it, looming in the right distance? Its upper edge, outlined by dark junipers, eventually became a blackish line, but the lower snow-covered slopes still blended with the pale sky and air.

The softer slopes of Green Mountain behind remained hidden, visible only to a mind's eye long familiar with this view. Many mornings I've watched the light coming, in various guises but always the same process, not feeling equal to a description. Today, here goes.

But that was Valentine's Day. Those grey mornings are not so typical as a Colorado sunny day. Today, as black and grey gave way to colors beyond description, we knew this day would be bright and clear. The faintest of blues mingled with the palest of yellow from the east to create a "no-color" we've often seen before. On the northern edge of the hogback, further west, a touch of pink was added, but the camera couldn't see it. By now, the entire east face of the hogback is basking in angled sunlight, but our side remains dark. The narrow wedge of light that first touches the rocks and tree tops strikes through the gap in the hogback created by Bear Creek. When we turn, we can barely see it hitting the tops of the foothills to the west, creating a pink or orange glow there.

As the light rises and spreads through the gap, it projects an outline of the hogback onto the red rocks, leaving only their tallest tips highlighted. As the day wears on, this shadow shrinks back to outline the base of the hogback. We don't get many sunsets here; early morning is our time for the colors folks usually associate with the end of day.

I love watching the play of light, but I'm no poet. Thankfully, Eric Andersen is:

Come watch the no colors fade blazing
Into petaled sprays of violets of dawn.

Now that I get what he means, my only question is: which are the "no colors"? Those gray dawns or these indescribable tints of brighter days?

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