Eye in the Sky


 It’s addictive: taking nature shots and turning them into repeating patterns. The ordinary becomes extraordinary! It brings back memories of Christmas mornings long ago.

Do you remember the very first time you looked through the tube of a kaleidoscope? I do. It was utter magic. As you turned the end of the tube the pattern changed  endlessly. It went on and on! No two views were ever the same.

Some of those simple visual toys (Christmas gifts more often that not) gave multiple reflections of the real world beyond; others showed patterns created from random bits of colored glass that tumbled at the end of the mirrored tube. I remember being absolutely mystified.

Things we see–I mean really SEE–for the first time often leave the most indelible impact on our memories and emotions.

“I remember the first time” she said as I passed her in the parking lot yesterday. “It was at recess in the third grade. We walked out the door and looked up and were delighted and horrified. God had written in the sky!”

It was the first time she or her classmates had ever seen jet contrails–long straight, surreal white streaks of cloud that could only have been writ so large by the Hand of God!

She and I stood there looking up at giant X’s and soft parallel tracks that marred the dark blue of the first day of December. Others stopped to join us, a funny band of Floydians enjoying God’s penmanship–no less wondrous an experience for knowing the pen was a jet engine.

Share this with your friends!

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

Articles: 3013


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Later it was done in cursive. About 4 o’clock I pulled over while driving to take a shot of the sky with a row of whispy white curled waves. But those things never translate well to photographs.

    I just recently bought a couple of kaleidosocopes like the ones we had when we were kids, tyring to recreate that excitement.

  2. I think there’s something to that–in that precip forms around “condensation nuclei” and the exhaust of thousands of jet engines a day in the mid-atmosphere would seem to contribute toward that end. But how that might compare to dust storms, industrial and auto exhaust, forest fires etc I don’t know.