When the Sun Rises in the South

No, that’s not a code phrase for “start the revolution” or for “I won the lottery, send me your wish list,” or for “the guys at the nuclear plant got the wires crossed.” Sunrise came from the south this (July 2) morning, undershot pink and then blazing gold and yellow. Why?

Because of stormy weather. I woke up to low clouds and what I grew up calling heat lightning, lightning so far away that it is silent (and you get no rain). I delayed my morning PT until the storms faded, but the skies still looked dark to the north and west. As dawn drew closer, layers of cloud and hints of clear skies emerged from the night’s darkness. Low, grey scud blew west, while darker, bluer layers climbed until the palest blue of open sky peeped through. Half a mile into my walk, a cold southeast gust of wind sent a little bit of paper and some tattered leaves skittering over the road as an outflow puffed out of a dying storm to the south and east. A brilliant flare of fiery pink appeared to the east, then vanished as softer pink began tinting the midlevel clouds.

By the time I started back up the long hill (OK, here it’s a hill. Gentle rise in the topography if you prefer) to Schloß Red, the southern sky began to grow bright. I caught glimpses of higher clouds turning ash-of-roses, then delicate rose, then ivory, and bright white as the lower layers remained Wedgwood blue. Deep blue-black covered the western sky, with bits and tatters of low grey-white, like dirty white rags, hanging below the rain curtain. But the dawn light grew more and more intense—to the south. Sunrise appeared to be south of east as the light reflected off the back of a towering storm pillar.

As the light grew brighter, it shifted to brilliant yellow. Not “lovely sunny morning” yellow, or “sunlight on a soft, hazy morning” gold, but “grab the kids, storm’s coming” yellow that had no source but instead flooded the world and made the storms to the west and north even darker. The wind began shifting, from south to due east as the approaching storms pulled in the cool, water-rich air. After a few minutes the yellow light cut off ask lower clouds masked the (still hidden) sun.

The show reminded me of a flight a decade or so ago, when I’d been up all night on back-to-back medical flights in the central Midwest. We lifted off from Biggish City International Airport just before local sunrise. Low clouds covered the sky, and the world around the King Air turboprop faded into grey. I turned off any flashing lights (vertigo prevention) and focused on flying the gauges and listening for traffic. As usual, only a few other hardy (or insane) souls soared the skies at that hour, and Regional Air-traffic Control Center (“Center”) sounded a bit surprised when I checked in with them.

We climbed through several thousand feet of clouds before popping out into wonderland. I winced as one of my flight nurses whistled. “Sorry Red.” He’d forgotten we were on intercom. But he had a point. North and south of us, towering pillars of fading storm blazed crimson and rose, while rose-washed clouds rolled away below us. Far above, cirrus ice feathers draped the blue sky with pure white. As we watched, the storms turned ivory, then eye-watering white as they collapsed.

It was a good morning.

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