The setting sun backlit this thunderstorm over Sugar Grove, West Virginia just as the top of the storm was being blown apart by upper level winds. I shot the dramatic scene from a ridge in western Rockingham Co., Virginia.
I have too many hobbies. Besides photography and writing, I enjoy biking, birding, wildlife, wildflowers, hiking, weather, sunrises, and sunsets, just to name a few. Every once in a while, I am fortunate to be able to combine some of those activities into one outing.
Recently I explored a new location for sunsets. Though lovely, the promise of a blazing sunset diminished as the sun sank lower and lower behind the Allegheny Mountains 17 miles away. To the north, a rogue thunderstorm drifted over northwestern Rockingham Co., Virginia. The last of the day’s light dappled the outer edges of the billowing storm cell.
Being outside in the cooling evening air on this hillside cattle farm brought me much joy. Capturing a photo of a growing thunderhead highlighted by the setting sun in this idyllic setting capped another lovely day in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
Under the watchful eye of the waxing February moon, a rogue thunderstorm glided over the Atlantic Ocean near the Florida/Georgia line. The slanting rays of the early evening sun beautifully illuminated the billowing cumulonimbus cloud and created a colorful rainbow in the process. Of course, the moon, too, reflected the sun’s warm light.
The deep orange crescent moon sat just above the tree line on the dusky horizon. Fanned out high over its tip, Saturn, Mars and Venus sparkled in the late evening sky.
Lightening flashed suddenly and silently interrupting the cloudless scene. Radar indicated the thunderstorm 120 miles southeast near Parkersburg, West Virginia.
The next morning, this natural display of awe and beauty was enthusiastically discussed among those who know the value of such a free show. They were gathered in the shade of a vendor’s tent at the annual Family Farm Field Day event.
It was more than appropriate and not the least bit ironic that such talk should take place at an educational affair celebrating the goodness of the land. These were people who knew the importance of Mother Earth, who knew how to care for her, appreciate her, and affirm her, even profit from her without rendering her useless or sterile.
The venue was as uplifting as the conversation about the storm. Hundreds of black buggies stood side by side against the woods, their unhitched horses now shaded.
Cars, vans and pickup trucks entered at the east gate. Along the drive, dozens of bicycles leaned against chain link fencing that separated yards from right of way and kept children from wandering into the long, graveled lane.
In between these contrasting parking lots, thousands of people milled beneath several large tents searching for information on how to better care for the earth. The slight bluff on which the action took place created a symbolic subliminal significance of man and land over that of man and mobility.
Though most were dressed in homemade denim with suspenders or pastel dresses with coverings and spoke a language I should have learned long ago, I was both at home and in harmony with them. We were all there for the same reason, to learn more about caring for and nurturing the land that provides us sustenance and shelter.
Besides the vendors’ displays, tents for keynote speakers, farmsteads and homemakers were erected in a huge horseshoe pattern around the pastured plateau. Of course, there were food tents, too. I couldn’t decide which I liked best, the sugar and cinnamon hot soft pretzel or the salty sweet kettle corn.
With the hot summer sun beating down, shade was at a premium for those seeking relief. That did not deter them from exploring the inescapable interconnection between humankind and our responsibility of caring for the environment.
To be sure, that is serious business. But it was nice to see it presented in such fun and informative ways for multiple generations. To the point, bird, butterfly and nature walks were filled to overflowing.
But what was really special for me was the dialogue on the previous night’s celestial display. Some of us saw what is erroneously called “heat lightening.”
From the backside of the storm, which is always the safest and prettiest angle, others
saw huge, billowing columns sail through the darkening sky. The higher they rose, the more the lightening sizzled in and out of them, brightly illuminating the swelling clouds.
One in the group had actually been under the building storm and arrived home in time to also watch the stunning electrical display. To hear that enthusiasm, plus see the genuine, cross-generational interest in caring for the ecosystem by so many people stirred my soul.
I left thoroughly uplifted, and with one large bag of kettle corn to go.