Friday, July 27, 2007

The Weight of Blue

We’ve been driving for four hours in a straight line across the Prairies. Soon, we’ll hit the one curve that detours around Medicine Hat and then there will be another four hours staring into the horizon as we listen to some plummy-voiced Brit actor read Jane Austen on the audio-book which replaced the unending stream of country music filling every radio channel.

The sky is vast. A deep blue that surrounds us, made more overwhelming because the top of the battered convertible is down (and, when it rains tomorrow, will only come back up with the muscular help of five other people). We’re at the edge of the Badlands and the weird, bounding leaps of white-assed pronghorn deer keep making my head swivel. The landscape is slightly rounded; what the glaciers didn’t grind flat, the wind has worn down. After four hours of this, I am road-stoned. Stunned into submission by the sky, my mind drifts. I feel the weight of the blue.

It strikes me as strange that we are 3000 feet above sea-level (water boils at just a little below 212 F, here). And this thought of the sea, and the endless blue above and around, remind me that we are driving along what was once the floor of an ocean. 70 million years ago my companion and I would have been crushed below the weight of water. As I stare up, the blue above me is deeper, filled with the ghosts of strange life; 60-70 foot cousins of the Great White might not even have found us big enough to be tempting snacks (although that’s probably too hopeful a thought). But the giant, long-necked plesiosaurs definitely would have deemed us worthy of being on the menu. There would have been clams, 8 or 9 feet across, and other marvels that I can’t even begin to imagine. I’m reminded of the moment when, as a child, I realized the true height of a tyranosaurus as I counted off three floors at the Montego Bay Holiday Inn Hotel where my parents worked. “That’s big,” I thought, immersed in wonder that anything so large had ever walked on land.

The sea was different and, to this day, some part of me still believes that that 70 foot long megalodons might yet hungrily swim through the depths. Out on the ocean, past the 10 mile line, the land is gone and the curve of the world is visible, and the sea has a blue-black colour that speaks of unimaginable depths. A whole world lies beneath the shifting skin upon which we float. Back in the car, I shift my gaze to the dashboard. I never did feel comfortable swimming past the reefs.