The Wandering Scientist

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Sunset in the Texas Prairie

Written: March 2, 2011

About: the Texas Prairie, which I am currently traversing

I have crossed the Texas Prairie many times. Several times by car, many more by plane. The view from the skies is actually fairly unsatisfying. The view from the car is much better, but I am constantly distracted by having to pay attention to driving. The highways may be exceedingly straight, but there is an occasional mountain in the way.

Living in Arizona, I have learned to love this tremendous, vast emptiness. The Sonoran desert is just as featureless and beautiful. There is a sense of serene personal dissolution that is almost instantly meditative. The landscape is soft, minimalist, and ends far beyond the eye’s reach. It is just a near infinite expanse of land, exceeded only by an even greater sky.

This time I have the advantage of crossing the Prairie on a Greyhound bus. I have the benefit of being only feet away from the brush without the hassle of having to steer. Instead, I have the luxury of paying attention to the scene.

The sunsets in the Southwest are renowned. As everything else in nature out here, the color scheme of a sunset is as simple as it is powerful. A sunset is made of gradients, various shades of red, yellow, and brown.

My first time in the Southwest was when I moved from Florida to Arizona, driving almost the entire length of I-10. A sunset came upon me in West Texas, and I was so overwhelmed by it that I had to pull over on a pile of gravel and take it in for a little while before getting back to the road.

In the midday sun, the Prairie is bleached. The sun is so intense and bright everything is washed out, thinned out, like a wispy water color painting. There is an indication of shapes, but the colors are but polite departures from white. As the sun leans toward the horizon, the shadows begin to accumulate in the brush. Colors return vibrant and intense. It is now a rich, thick blend of yellows and browns. Everything becomes textured. The scene becomes so saturated with colors it is almost visually tangible. It is a place to rest my eyes in peace.

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