I drove west along I-40 through central New Mexico until I hit 285. I took that north through Santa Fe and followed the mountains. 30 miles east of Pagosa Springs, the storm gathered itself in fingers drawn into a great hand. Sun blotted behind the clouds, and the world caught fire.
Virga streaked the sunset. The pumpkin-colored bulb of the sun now shimmered behind wax paper clouds, taking a match to them from behind. I could sniff the coming rain, saw the sun just about to bob under the mountains at 8:31 p.m. A lake on my right and a valley on my left. Chain lightning raked rain shrouded mountains. The Blanco River Valley sliced its course through soft mountains that bore prominences like the helmets of soldiers, all sweating orange incandescence. To the east was light. To the west was light. But the seam, the valley, a mixture of dusk and storm, blacked by cloud and burnished by a vast lamplight as I furrowed the pasture on either side of the blacktop and nudged my metal horse into the outskirts of the village of Chroma.
Lightning and sunset lit the northwest sector of sky. I landed down in a streambed shouldered with conifers on each bank as the U-valley narrowed into a V-canyon where the glaciers had not cut. And I descended, still in the San Juan National Forest, almost without light at 8:50. Storm whisked with turbid twilight, spinning with lightning with sun. Everything an admixture. No thing defined. Lightning strobed a temporary daylight, the long and ending day having stored up the power of the sun, and now meting its fusion out in bursts. Clouds rosetted the sun into a stained radiance, then dilated to let in more light into the valley of the Blanco River as I crossed.
A hamlet, nearly lost in the folds of mountains, slipped into featurelessness. A glowing night cow at the edge of the road was just a fencepost after all. Lightning leached into the clouds, rummaged around, a flashbulb in search of its subject. The road flickered, shimmered bitter blue. The valley stretched like taffy swirls, a green apple candy speckled red with barns.
The mountains squeezed and thrust from beneath the crust of the continent, higher and higher, sharp like obsidian. Ozone lingered crisp in the bottomlands. Then the rain.
© 2014 by Michael C. Just