Do not look away. Nothing is more important. This thunder is the drumroll for a light show like no other. I take a seat on the promontory above a verdant marsh curving into a black jumble of lava and out into Davis Lake here in the East Cascades of Oregon. Above me towers the witness pine, a six-foot-diameter ponderosa. Below me, winds tussle the leaves of willows, ceanothus, and wild raspberry. A bald eagle high in the pine’s branches gives an urgent piping call. I breathe the air that tastes of rain.
Like a gray-roan stallion kicking up a plume of ash, a nimbus cloud stampedes the southern horizon and fills the entire sky, except for one slice across the lava and the shoulder of a far hill . There, the blue sky lingers and white cumulus clouds squeeze beneath the heavy storm brow.
Slanting light from the west strikes the cumulus clouds that are no longer white, but gold laced in silver. If I were the eagle above me, I’d soar into their downy, luminous folds and flick my wing along the edge of the storm. The first raindrops fall. Lightning dazzles. Thunder startles. I must stay put– a little longer.
A pencil-gray cloud bird takes shape in the foreground of the golden clouds. I note the long curved bill, the sleek aerodynamic form, and the outstretched feet. Definitely an ibis. Not far behind, a shark-shaped cloud swims across a swathe of blue. Why not a shark and an ibis? I feel the merging of elements—of sea, sky, and the fire of lava.
The marsh gleams more alive than ever. The ponderosa glows. My hands catch the spark. The wealth of the world is here in this moment. Rain pours away the light. The centuries-old pine drinks. The eagle shakes her feathers.