Friday, January 22, 2016

Horizons For Viewing

My whole life, horizons have captured my imagination. Finding a comfortable spot to sit while observing a far off horizon of interest was like a discovery moment, an awe inspiring one. These days my horizons come only from looking out windows: south and east, from my bedroom; west, from my living room recliner out the front windows overlooking the front porch and houses across Evans Street.

East on our horizon stately stands a round vessel held up by six stout legs way up higher by far then the rooftops of adjacent, existing north Sheridan Street homes. It is man's tribute to the awesome power of gravity that this, and other towers that hold potable water, are in urban settings all over the country. Processed water is pumped from the water plant some miles away and up to this extremely large vessel atop six legs. From this high up holding tank water flows down and fills pipes in a predetermined grid while water pressure is maintained in the grid through the function of the laws of gravity. The height of the column of water determines the gravitational down pressure that is exerted in the flow of water as it flows outward under pressure from the location of the tank into the grid system it services.

Silhouetting that water tank many days when the wind is calm is the plume of vapor from the Limerick Electric Power Generating Plant's twin towers. Often a northern flowing wind pushes the plume north and it obscures the view of the Sheridan Street Tower. But, it's the rising sun which plays artist with the plume, the elevated tank, and the horizon. The sun at just peeking up at the horizon becomes a huge yellow ball much larger than the sun looks when overhead. Then, as the sun rays pierce the vapor plume they color the sky profusely, as rays refract off particles floating within the vapor. Purple, all shades of red, and various hues of yellow meld with each other to form the panorama of a colorful painting, a mosaic of undetermined colors. Individual murals last only minutes at a time since they are produced by moving elements : the sun rising, the clouds in motion, and the vapor plume ever billowing.

Rarely does a horizon remain a visual constant because when the viewer moves the perspective of the horizon changes. The farther off the horizon the less change is perceived as realized when viewing the horizon when at the ocean where the curvature of the earth determines the ultimate distance of the horizon. Far off mountain ranges act similarly as the ocean, little change is perceived when you, the viewer, moves your base somewhat.

Whether watching a pile of applewood burn or watching the mosaic of fine fall sunsets would one get the coloration of the eastern horizon on a normal daybreak. Rising early is the only necessity in observing the eastern display of colorful movement but, if you rise forty minutes before sunrise you'll have a chance to see five planets gracing the eastern sky in a show of solidarity. Beauty is in eye of the beholder.

Ronald C. Downie

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