The rising sun sets the sky over Mount Shasta aflame.
The sunrise on Wednesday was beautiful, but in a subdued and ethereal way. It never seemed to be able to gather enough light to itself and really glow. This was certainly not the case the following morning. This time, the sky over Mount Shasta seemed to be on fire, blazing across the dome of heaven. Thankfully, I was well-positioned to watch the spectacle. However, little did I know that, as spectacular as the sunrise was, it was only the first act in a magnificent show that highlighted just how grand Mount Shasta is.
As usual, I was up early and checked the conditions outside. The forecast had called for some clouds but when I surveyed the night sky, there was nothing visible. This changed rather quickly. As I headed north, I could see a couple of clouds starting to coalesce above the mountain. I went fairly deep into the Shasta Valley, intent on trying out a new spot I had espied a week or so ago. However, by the time I was near my destination, a thick fog had overtaken the valley and I could barely see 30 yards ahead of me, let along Mount Shasta to the south. I turned around and headed back to Edgewood, where the fog had not penetrated. Once there, I got to one of my usual spots and was ready just in time for the color to explode.
I love sunrises like this. The texture of the clouds and the way they catch the light reveals incredibly intricate structures that are often invisible under normal conditions. These clouds had so many different layers, it was hard to appreciate all at once. I had to scan the different areas to appreciate the textures. If particular note was the near-lenticulars that hovered around the summit of Mount Shasta. Before the color had burst into the sky, I was thinking these might firm up their shapes and actually be full-formed lenticulars. Instead, the clouds expanded and filled the sky. While lenticulars are always great, it was hard to be disappointed with this particular spectacle.
However, as I noted, this was not the only awe-inspiring sight this sunrise was to produce.
This morning witnessed a rare shadow-casting from Mount Shasta. It is normal for the mountain to have a shadow at sunrise (and sunset, of course but few are ever east of the mountain to appreciate it!) but it is far less common for the shadow to be cast onto the clouds in the distance. I have seen it a few other times but the conditions have to just right for the phenomenon to occur. Interestingly, I have generally observed this happing in January.
This particular shadow was cast over the Little Scott Mountains on the west side of the Shasta Valley. A dark tower seemed to be cut through the colorfully light clouds, jutting high above the landscape. It was obvious that this was the shadow from Mount Shasta. It shrank as the sun got higher but it was evident for quite a while.
As the sun rose, the position of the shadow relative the mountain was more obvious and soon it was visibly cast by the summit itself. This type of shadow I have seen on numerous occasions, but this one grew even more pronounced as the sun climbed higher.
Unlike other shadow-castings I have witnessed, the conditions for this morning lasted long enough to see the sky split in half. One portion was alight with morning glow, both in the sky and on the land. The other portion was darkened, falling in the shadow of the mountain. It was like watching an eclipse, scaled down to a mountain, but still tremendous in scope.
I appreciate the way Mount Shasta has discernable influence over the land around it. The shadows cast are but one example and, though grand, a fleeting and insignificant one. The rainshadow is similar in so many ways but it translate into far more concrete realities on the ground. The land is dry, the plants are different, and water is less abundant. People live differently in the rainshadow. Morning shadows don’t have that kind of impact on the physical realities we are confronted with but in our hearts and minds, this kind of shadow casting can still effect us, fill us with awe and appreciate the beauty that is in the world.
It reminds me of Malachi 4:2. When I see an event of such as this, I too want to skip about like a joyous calf.