Sunday, October 26, 2014

Photo-of-the-Week #182 - My Head Is In The Clouds, Somewhere Over The Southern U.S., October 2014

If there were a rainbow in this photo I'd burst out into a rousing chorus of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." But, don't fret, no rainbow and I'm not singing. All is good in the world.

I was flying back from San Antonio a week ago yesterday and, while I usually prefer an aisle seat when I have to hurtle through the sky in a big silver (or whatever color) tube, on this trip back to Dulles International, I had a window seat (my second choice). This photo was taken on the Dallas to Dulles leg of the trip.

I honestly don't know where we were at the time I pulled up my window shade and glanced out. But, this cloud formation was below us. I'm not sure if these were altocumulus or cirrocumulus clouds. They look very much alike, but the altocumulus are lower level and the cirrocumulus are higher altitude clouds. You can usually differentiate from the ground because the altocumulus will have visible shaded areas and the higher cirrocumulus will not. I was over the top of the formations looking down, so I couldn't tell. The plane was probably at about 30,000 to 32,000 feet at this time and frankly, I couldn't tell if these were higher altitude altocumulus clouds or lower altitude cirrocumulus clouds.

What intrigued me was I don't believe, in the hundreds of thousands of miles I've flown over my lifetime, I've ever seen this kind of cloud formation from above. You can see the Earth below the clouds, but I knew the ground was at least 6 miles below the plane. The other thing that really grabbed me was the stark contrast of the sky above the clouds as it became a very deep blue toward the top of the photo. Being at this altitude I knew I was looking into the outer fringes of the atmosphere of this remarkable biosphere we call the Earth that is our home.

Beyond that blue is the stark blackness of the universe. It's a place we know, to the best of our knowledge, to be stark and inhospitable to our kind. Yet, here we sit, this tiny particle of space dust and us believing we are all so important. Interestingly, we can also dive into the oceans and find places that are so far beneath the surface that light doesn't penetrate there, either. It is equally as stark and inhospitable.

It made me think of just how insignificant each human actually is and how simple the basic truths of life are. As far as we know, Earth is the only place in the universe where life, as we know it, is supported. But, IF, just if there is life somewhere else in the universe, is it anything like ours and are their lives as complicated as we've made ours?

Hey! Is there anything more interesting to do while hurtling through the sky in a miraculous creation of human ingenuity with all kinds of digital devices around you clicking, binging, whirring, playing music and so on than to wonder at the wonder of it all.