Attempting to stand on the horizon feels like chasing after the end of the rainbow; I can see it but I can’t quite get there because of the unicorns.
Living on one of the highest points in southern Buffalo County, I can see for miles in three out of the four directions. A row of trees blocks my view to the west. Toward the southeast, the lights of Kearney glow, and my best view, from my deck and the window in my kitchen, looks directly to the east where I can watch the sun or the moon rising, depending on the whims of astronomy.
As a freelance arts journalist, I often write about painters who specialize in creating landscapes. A museum curator once pointed out the importance of the horizontal line in landscapes, how that break between earth and sky usually helps define a painting. That definitive line, found in most landscapes, can add so much drama and tension.
For me, I continually find myself marveling at the horizon at my house. I usually notice it first thing in the morning before the sun changes everything. On a good morning, the line between Heaven and Earth first takes on a red hue, something I had always read about called “false dawn.” I love the idea of a fake dawn, as if we have the power to decide which dawn qualified as real. A few clouds on the horizon can change everything, creating vivid colors and rich textures. Too many clouds and the transition between night and day fades into a gunmetal gray. On clear mornings, the red color of the horizon burns a single line at the edge of my world.
I find great comfort in knowing that the horizon I see belongs to everyone. To someone else, the clouds hugging the horizon at the edge of my world float directly overhead for that person. And even though my lawn chair, sitting in the center of my yard, pinpoints the center of my world, to that other person I cling to the edge of his or her horizon. Frolicking with unicorns, I suppose.
Sometimes while driving through western Nebraska, I like to imagine that I am traveling through untouched grasslands 150 years ago, following riverbeds, hill crests and valleys. Something about seeing the world from horizon to horizon gives me comfort. I spent years living and working in the forests of western North Carolina, a place of amazing beauty. I loved the mountains and the morning mist of the cool summer days. Driving back west after each summer, I always tried to note the place of transition between forests and grasslands. It feels so subtle that I must concentrate on the world around me. As if driving out of a cloud, the prairie opens and I can suddenly see the world ahead of me.
I wish I always felt satisfied with one vista or another. If the horizon of the prairie felt fulfilling, I could put down roots and purchase a burial plot knowing I had arrived “home.” Some days I long for the definitive horizon of the seashore, a unequivocal place that creates some very real boundaries. Other times I dream of the mountains, a place filled with nooks and crannies — and probably a race of self-righteous Hobbits.
I can also feel a great attraction to a cityscape. Years ago, I recall camping in the desert several miles outside of Las Vegas and reading a book at night by the lights of the city. Something about the glow of an office building at night feels comforting. I could wake up each morning in a New York City loft apartment, gaze out the window at the Hudson River and feel right at home.
For now I feel content to share my horizon with a flock of disrespectful turkeys, some arrogant deer, several ground hogs with more than a little attitude and a herd of cows who have seen me at my worst. In this little place where the sky meets the soil, where I can stand and watch the stars and the clouds and the world spin around me, I feel joyful and excited with each rising sun and each setting moon. I know I should always consider expanding my horizons, but how can I ask for more than that?