A Sea of Clouds

Sunday, October 28, 2001


Fall back happened today. I grouse about it every year.  But today the time change brought an unexpected gift.  Because the darkness of night comes sooner, we headed down the mountain earlier, just in time to witness an incredible sky show.

Just as we turned onto the Arctic Circle (Highway 18) at 6000 feet above sea level, an unusual phenomenon was afoot.  The valley was swathed with low-lying clouds.  Like a high loft down comforter, the clouds hugged the mountainsides and reached all the way out to the distant horizon.   

The view was breathtakingly stunning, akin to the one seen from high above in an airplane. 

An angel's view. 

Cars were turning out and people were getting out to take it all in -- each becoming a "Wanderer Above the Sea of Clouds". Tourists travel great distances -- to the mountains of China or Japan -- to see a "Sea of Clouds."  Click on these online photos and you'll see what was at our feet, right against our mountain, below our very eyes:

The world is often seen through eyes of reminiscence, and for us, this transcendental view returned us momentarily to our homeland, Hawai`i.  For a few seconds, we were on a Hawaiian shoreline, except the island was in the sky, surrounded by a sea of clouds with billowing waves and an occasional island-like mountain peak. It looked as if you could dive right into it and swim across the expanse.

At 5:04, the sun was setting over the sea of clouds, streaking the sky above the cloud cover with dramatic color and the cloud cover itself with soft pastels. With the occasional fleecy, high altitude cloud, there was a sense of the ethereal -- of angels in flight. 

Down at the 5000 foot level, cars were again turning out. People were walking over to the mountain's western edges to watch the sun set over the sea of clouds, just as they do at sunset alongside the shoreline road to Lahaina.

Craggy mountain peaks and ridges jutted out of a sea of rolling waves of fluffy white clouds, assuming myriads of shapes like islands in the sea under the soft late afternoon sunlight. I remembered the sight of the islands of Lana`i and Moloka`i across the channel from Maui.

There was just enough cloud, haze and atmospheric dust to reflect and broadcast the last rays of the sun in grand splendor with fiery reds, purples and oranges. A forecast of a rainstorm a-brewing, perhaps, but for the moment, the sunset was a feast for our eyes.

Further down the road, at the 4000 foot level, we saw the rising silvery moon already high up against the clear blue southwestern sky, just before we plunged into the sea of clouds.  From brightness, we entered the thick layer of clouds, right into a shroud of  darkness. 

Instantly, it was as dark as night.  


Right now, anyone in the Los Angeles basin looking up into the night sky will not see a single star. The cloud cover above is as thick as, yes, full-bodied pea soup. 

As I write this,  I wonder if those on the mountainsides are witnessing  this phenomenon: 

For certain, up on the mountain, far above the cloud cover, the stars are twinkling into eyes that see...



"Life is a Gift."

Author Unknown


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This web journal was created on a September Morn, September 29, 2001.
September Morn 2001