“As the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds, as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.” II Samuel 23: 4
The cabbie was a small bald man with a thin grey moustache. I asked him if the weather was always like this in San Diego: clear, pleasant, dry. Yes, he said, always. I asked him if it ever rained. Very seldom, he said. I had read in the Union-Tribune that there was a water shortage in the Sacramento valley. “All over the state,” the cabbie told me. “This year there is a terrible drought. We are constantly told to conserve water wherever possible.”
Riding in the back of the cab to the airport, I recalled the lyric, “It never rains in southern California.” Evidently, this year that was true.
By mid morning we had flown over the sparsely treed white dry mountains of southern California. You could tell that we were flying east from the shadows cast by the mountain peaks in the morning sun. I looked out the small port window at the landscape below: reddish brown and wrinkled bare burnt mountains. Soon we crossed the dessert, flat and forsaken; but ahead I noticed a wide swath of patchwork greens bifurcated by a blue ribbon. Water, I thought, amazed at what that one life-giving substance can do in this dry arid zone christened Arizona.
From the air Phoenix took on the appearance of a massive computer chip, its inlaid silver streets and structures gleaming in the morning sun. Underneath us a sea of clouds speckled the skies, and their black shadows fell across the land. Off in the distance below the faultless blue dome there arose a string of white buttes, their tops flattened by the icy jet stream. Occasionally the black gnat of another aircraft appeared against this backdrop, buzzing off in another direction to some unknown destination.
Somewhere over eastern New Mexico the yellow browns of the earth gave way to uniform rectangular patches of various shades of green, purple and grey. In the Texas panhandle each rectangle contained a circle. Some of the circles were green and some were brown; some had pie-shaped wedges cut out of them. In Oklahoma the motif was the same, but the rectangular fields were smaller, sewn together like a handcrafted quilt.
A thick white glacier of clouds blanketed the land as we crossed into Arkansas. I glimpsed the wide chocolate syrupy Mississippi as it meandered down to the coast.
We touched down for a layover in Atlanta, then headed northeast, over the tiny irregular green and brown patches of farmland east of the Appalachians that looked like a Cezanne canvas. The clouds became more and more dense. I caught sight of the Chesapeake Bay just before a white blanket occluded all earth-bound landmarks.
Overhead the skies were blue; nothing but grey below. The western sun streamed in through the windows and fell on the pages of the open book in my lap. As we made our descent, the intense light gave way to a nebulous ghostly grey. Like an elevator we dropped through the clouds. My ears closed off and all sound ceased. For an eternity we fell through timeless space, then suddenly there were the familiar landmarks of human existence: the interstate highway, the river, the grid of houses, one or two ball fields. The ground rushed up to meet us; the landing gear skidded against the ridged concrete runway; and we were home.
Outside the terminal, unlike the west coast city I had left early that morning, the pavement was wet from recent rain. It continued to rain for the remainder of the evening and through the night. Morning brought cool air under a powdery blue sky.
Everywhere I looked all was dewy green, clear shining after rain.