It was a Warm and Stormy Night
by GUY TAL
Journal entry, 7/31/2010
It started like any other summer Friday in Torrey. Right around 5pm a peaceful silence falls over the town and the work week is almost palpably over. Despite the sparse traffic, on days like this I like to stay at the gallery a bit further into the evening, not so much for the sales potential but because these are often the times when lone travelers wander into town in search of a place to spend the night. When it’s just me and one curious visitor in the store and all is quiet and glowing in the late afternoon light, conversations tend to form and evolve in fascinating patterns.
After closing the shop I headed home, remembering the local music show scheduled for the evening and fighting the urge to spend a quiet evening on my own. I knew most of the people playing though I have not actually seen some of them perform. I decided to go. What the hell, I was already dressed.
A monsoon thunderstorm started brewing earlier in the day and seemed to linger more than usual with the occasional flash of lightning over the Aquarius Plateau followed by a distant rumble. It was a perfect warm afternoon bathed in golden light as the sun was lazily sinking little by little in the summer sky. The musicians tuned their instruments against a backdrop of majestic cliffs, green groves of aspen and conifers on the distant flanks of Boulder Mountain and the unfolding storm beyond. All was bright and vivid in the warm light. On the large lawn, a small crowd of familiar faces engaged in friendly chat. Life here is not easy for many but right here, right now, there was an overpowering air of joy and contentment as if the moment is all that mattered and all else can wait for another time – a state of mind I have come to greatly appreciate about this place.
As soon as the first guitar notes launched off the stage into the warm stillness of a perfect summer evening, I knew the reason I was here. One by one people I knew, some for years, transformed before my eyes. They were no longer farmers, cowboys, builders, teachers, or retirees; they were giants. For those few moments on stage they poured their hearts into their instruments and microphones, consumed by their passion, love, and angst, and consuming everyone else within earshot right along. It was a glimpse into the blazing turbulent core of their humanity, independent of anything else they happen to do in their daily lives. You never know the depths of soul some people harbor, even ones close to you, until you get the chance to see them in their element, telling their stories, greater than life.
The storm kept firing bolts of lightning in the background throughout the evening but spared us the precipitation until the very last moments of the show. By 11pm only a handful of people remained to hear the last notes fade and help clean up the stage as the first drops of rain finally hit.
I walked back home along the avenue of old cottonwoods in the quiet drizzle. I knew I was too saturated to get any sleep. I still tried. The lightning was closer now, illuminating the room every few seconds. Sleep was a lost cause. I had to go experience the magic up close. I quickly got dressed and headed up the dark road to Boulder Mountain. A movement caught my eye just beyond the reach of the headlights and I slowed down in time to avoid a skunk dragging something off the pavement. Another half mile and a strange jumble of iridescent dots turned out to be the reflections from the eyes of four raccoon cubs playing in the brush by the side of the road. A large owl floated silently from the top of a nearby aspen. The world was alive in a way most people never know.
It was around 1am when I finally arrived at a high viewpoint. I stood there in total darkness for a few minutes, breathing the scent of the recent rain and thinking about the music and the amazing people behind it. Though I could only see it in the brief flashes of lightning, the canyon country stretched far below me: Capitol Reef, the Waterpocket Fold, the Circle Cliffs, the Blue Hills, and beyond them the commanding peaks of the Henry Mountains. I set up the camera in the dark, opened the shutter and waited. Within fifteen minutes or so, I was able to record three impressive strikes.
I kept driving, hoping to find another good view but the storm was already fading. I turned around and headed home. 3am found me in my living room, sipping tequila and listening to the quiet snoring of my dogs, knowing that one day in the future I will come back to the memory of this night and want to remember it in every last vivid detail.
Guy Tal is a naturalist, photographer, and writer residing in the state of Utah, in the heart of a unique and scenic desert region known as the Colorado Plateau. Guy chose nature photography as a way of capturing and sharing the beauty, power, and fragility of wild places and the life that inhabits them, so that those who have become mired in the man-made chaos may open their eyes to the real world.
Guy sets as his goal as a person and artist, “To witness, participate in, and hopefully share the delicate beauty of wilderness – those moments in time when nature and spirit transcend the manufactured reality of politics, wars, fashions, and mass media, to inspire the raw emotion and primal awe that lies dormant in all of us.”
You can find many of his images on his web site at guytal.com.