An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of June 15, 2003
written in the woods a few miles east of Natchez, Mississippi, USA

SEEING THE SKY

At Laurel Hill I could see a fair patch of sky above the Blackberry Field, but that was nothing compared to the vista available here. Wednesday a line of thunderheads with flaring white tops, billowy middles and brooding dark bases marched past. I could hardly take my eyes from them as they rumbled, grew sky-tall and spread their tops into classic anvil shapes. On Thursday a storm came with a white curtain of rain that moved toward me as I planted a Sweet Olive in the field. I could see and hear everything. The rain's white curtain inexorably coming at me was hypnotic. I just let the chilly drops splash onto me, totally drenching me. On Friday an even more magnificent storm came, and this time I squatted in the barn door experiencing it with the same mind that sometimes I use with Beethoven symphonies.

Most of the time, of course, in this sky there's just blue emptiness with a few vultures and hawks, and maybe some white cumulus clouds drifting northward. Sunlight from such a sky possesses a special cutting edge, like finely crushed glass. The moon in such a sky seems to converse with herself. All the time, beneath such a sky, you are aware of being a spectator. Sometimes when a very hot, dry, late- afternoon breeze stirs and the sunlight cuts into your skin, though you be rooted in a level field, you feel a certain precariousness, like being a dusty bottle about to tilt from a shelf in an abandoned shack.

Having hourly access to the broad sky changes you if for long you have grown accustomed to a burrowing style of life, burrowing through buildings, into computer screens and books, closing yourself up in imagined personal spaces. Being for long beneath the open sky is an act of decompression. Your psychology shifts from "burrower" to that of "bug on a table."

It's also a kind of coming to terms, for nothing reveals so elegantly the true nature of man's presence on Earth as a penetrating look into the broad open sky. Facebook Icon.