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Wide Open Prairie Skies - I Can See For Miles

Time and Place shape us. As for Time, I am the youngest of four kids raised in the '60s and '70s, I remember the music of my older siblings, and one song by The Who - I Can See For Miles came to mind as I penned this post. If you are old enough, you will remember it too. If not, look it up, it is a good song. So Chronos or long time is one aspect of time. Another aspect of time is the daily rhythm of sunrise to daytime to sunset to night, constant and familiar.

As to Place, I grew up on the 12-Mile Prairie in Clinton County, Indiana, with wide open skies. It is easy to overlook the broad expanses of clouds and stars if you live in it every day. Fortunately, my mother was an artist at heart, she noticed so much of the world around her including the skies and she taught us to do the same. My father was a farmer and he noticed his place in practical terms of fields, crops, livestock, and gardening. Today, I live in the city of Carmel and I often find that houses and trees obscure the horizon and my views. And, the ambient light or 'cityglow' from streetlights and traffic in cities and towns wash out the stars at night. So those times that I spend on the prairie are cherished. Sometimes I see a hopeful sky in the west and I will call my siblings and ask them to take the picture if what they see is worth it. In my travels, I have stood in awe looking from mountain to mountain. But, I will never undervalue the magical skies that I see on the flat prairies in the Midwest.

I was up by the home farm twice in the past week. I caught pictures of thunderhead clouds (apparently the meteorological name is cumulonimbus clouds) towering over the prairie in the eastern skies of early evening.

Opposite from them, in the southwestern sky, a storm front was forming -- dropping rain and kicking up winds as it raced across the landscape.

Later that week, I was leaving my brother's home late at night. As I walked out of their house I looked up, as I always do to see the stars, but the clouds hid them all from view. Walking to my truck, the ambient glow of Frankfort's city lights, just five miles away, reflected on the clouds and cast this eerie scene.

Earlier that same day, I wrote a poem, Ode to the Prairie, that includes this sentence –

The hand of God paints the sky

Using a different palette every day.

That's the wonderful thing about clouds and skies, they are ever-changing. Do you find yourself gazing at the skies? I love crystal blue skies, cloud formations, and occasionally grey skies. I have nearly 400 pictures of sunsets alone on my phone. I want to share a few more of my favorites here.

Sunset on the prairie after a day of corn harvest near Frankfort.

Two sunsets from my sister's home near Terhune. One above and one below.

My brother Don caught this magnificent picture late one afternoon while out farming. Amazing western skies with my childhood church, Manson Congregational Christian Church, in the foreground. He knew to send this one to me!

During the fall harvest in 2020, I was chasing the combine with grain cart back and forth through the cornfield. For over an hour, I closely watched this scene develop and then the sunlight exploded below the cloud bank, silhouetting the neighboring farm's trees and grain bins. Had never seen anything like it before or since. Breathtaking!

Many years earlier, we had a family gathering at the farm and my niece Lyndsay Ploehn saw this scene and told me to come out and see it. She captured this picture, an iconic image of basketball in Indiana, Hoosier Hysteria. I played countless games of one-on-one and H-O-R-S-E on this court seeking to outscore the opponent, but the photographer scored on this day.

Once when Beth and I were driving home through north central Indiana, we could not stop and the sunset was on her side of the car. The interstate traffic was light, I slowed down, and she captured this sunset that filled the entire sky.

As a night owl I don't always see the sunrise or I am not usually outside of the city when it does, but here are a couple I especially like. The first is taken at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Carmel, just before the sun broke the horizon.

One morning while traveling to Alexandria for a meeting, I stopped in the middle of a county road in northern Hamilton County. I have one without the trees and this one with them. This one is a 'painting,' the other is just a picture.

Finally, there is the moon. Harder to capture well on an iPhone, but I do keep trying and sometimes I get this.

Some scenes develop over time and others seem to be here and gone in seconds. Be ready, be alert. I share these with you as part of Life Off The Highway, to encourage you to intentionally wander. I have many more that are just for me or times that Beth and I were wandering. I take pictures to curate my travels, near and far, for me and my memories, then possibly share. Today, many social media 'players' do the opposite, only trying to find the pictures that they can share and usually with them in the frame. I encourage you to be a Curator first, and a Sharer second.


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