Where the Gods Live
You will see that the Southern sky (okay, the sky in general) holds my attention like almost nothing else. To me, it is where the gods live, where Nature unfolds and shows herself to us, her children. The sky harbors sunrises, sunsets, brilliant shades of blue, and terrifying storms.
One thing I missed about Home while I was living in Germany was the clouds. I don’t know the atmospheric science behind it, but the clouds in Marburg were never big enough to take up the entire sky like they do here. Once I returned, I was again shown just how gigantic and impressive the clouds in a Southern sky can be. They may start small and wispy and then build to be huge, billowing and white. In the heat of the afternoon, they’ll turn black and unleash a torrent of lightning and thunder that will stop you in your tracks. And then at the end of the day, the clouds will work in tandem with the sun to provide a radiant and spectacular sunset.
Standing under clouds that seem to stretch for thirty miles or under a clear and pristine sky that has no end, one receives the humbling and necessary reminder of how small we are.
I hold the Sky in reverence, and it holds me in awe.
A Florida Sunrise
Some may say that Florida is part of the South, and others may not. While it may lie further south than even Georgia, I have to argue that Florida is not really part of “the South.” Its culture is simply too different. Perhaps it’s because Florida was settled by a different group of Europeans, or – more probable – because Florida is the retirement destination for our nation’s northern Yankees. Whatever the reason, Florida’s culture differs from that of the South, though it does share some similarities.
Florida is a land where cowboys still exist, waking up hours before the sun rises to saddle their horses and ride out to round up the cattle. Florida is still very agricultural, competing with California to provide the best citrus fruit to the rest of the nation, while at the same time providing places like Miami Beach, Disney World, and the University of Florida, one of the largest research universities in the world.
So, Florida may not be part of the South, but it does share some Southern characteristics: conservative values, focus on family, food & fellowship, and a large agricultural base. Florida is where I was born and I still have a lot of family there, so it’s definitely helped shape this little Southern boy.
Scenes like the one depicted in this picture are common for central Florida: the sun rising slowly in the morning over a pasture, casting light on the livestock, the palmettos, the oaks & Spanish moss, and the sandy soil. It’s a beautiful sight, but you better get your work done before noon; once the sun burns off the Florida morning fog, the temperature will rise just as high as and faster than the sun itself.
A Sunset Gives Way to the Southern Night Sky
Sunsets around the world are magnificent; from the beach shores to the mountaintops, and from the vast deserts to the sprawling rainforests of the globe, sunsets inspire us to stop and take in the natural beauty. Southern skies are no different. When the sun meets the horizon, it may throw an array of color into the sky, or simply slip gracefully out of sight.
Once the last trace of light has faded, you can really appreciate a rural Southern night sky. Seeing the “big stars” is never a problem, but on a clear night when the full moon isn’t bathing everything in its silver light, you can count every single star of the Milky Way. Lord knows you’ve got the time.
Fire in the Sky
Sometimes you may look out your window at the end of the day and have to catch your breath.
The sky is on fire.
Sometimes sunsets may not be fiery or billowing or extravagant at all.
They may be subtle, smooth and soothing.
Thunda’ Head Rollin’ In
There’s almost nothing more awe-inspiring to me than a good thunderstorm, or a “thunda’ head” as Southerners call them. In the summer months, there is no shortage of them. I love the way the temperature rises, as if in anticipation, and then suddenly drops as the storm’s winds arrive with a howl. I love witnessing the majesty of Lightning that can penetrate even the darkest of nights, and hearing the growing rumble of Thunder as it approaches from the heavens and then explodes, shaking the very foundations of the Earth.
Mother Nature has many sides. She has gentle, rolling hills and breathtaking landscapes that can be blanketed with the pure white of snow. But with a spark of distant lightning, she can announce the arrival of her other side. She’ll forcefully, yet humbly, display her energy and raw power, her frightening beauty. Within minutes, however, she’ll provide the gentle and calming sound of rain to reassure the Earth of her care and replenish the soul of anyone who would but listen.
The South: A Photo Essay by W. J. Newsome is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.