Monday, October 24, 2011
The Land of Living Skies
When I saw the phrase on a Saskatchewan license plate at the airport in Saskatoon, I wasn't sure what it really meant. I mean, who lays claim to the skies? Living skies, at that.
But a week later, I knew exactly what the words meant. About half-way through my fly fishing adventure at Blackmur's Athabasca lodge in the far northwestern corner of the province, as I walked from the lodge to my cabin around a 11 o'clock one night, I fortunately looked up into the heavens to see if the day's clouds had cleared and the light from the stars was able to reach the lake.
What I saw amazed me. A vivid band of powdery white light streaked across the northern sky, and I realized that I was seeing, for the first time, the aurora borealis ... the northern lights. And, yes, the stars were vibrant against the darkness that dominated the rest of the scene.
But the night sky, while amazing and touching on a deeply personal level, was not what "living" skies meant, at least not to me. The daytime views of the upper half were equally, if not more, impressive, with abundant cloudscapes that blended and contrasted with the lake, with the woods ... with one another.
We could be fly fishing in a torrential downpour and look off to the west to see blue sky approaching, banded with bright, white cumulus clouds or streaked with high cirrus clouds. Morning and evening light brought colors so vivid and brilliant that I questioned their realism. Even gray skies with low tendrils of fog had character and personality. And bright blue skies were unimaginably bright and amazingly blue.
And as we left the lodge in Cliff Blackmur's float plane, we skirted above dancing rainstorms that punished the black spruce forests below with quick, violent bursts, only to diminish and reveal the the blue heavens.
Romantic? Sure, I guess. But as I sorted through the hundreds of photos I snapped over my week in Saskatchewan, a good many of them were simply photos of the sky. Others were reflections in water of the heavens above. And still others placed the sky in the background, where it often stole the show.
Land of Living Skies, indeed. I'm a believer.