Monday, November 4, 2013

Squares and Circles

I decide to set my camera up beneath the double arch to record the sunset and the emerging of the starlight. I want to incorporate motion into this time lapse so I attach the camera to my tracking telescope mount; it can be operated manually to move at sidereal or 2x sidereal speed in any direction. Not having the proper equipment to adjust the exposure of the photographs as the sun sets, I plan to record three separate clips; one of the sun setting, one of the twilight, and one when the stars emerge. Later I’ll be able to blend these three clips together to hopefully get a seamless transition from day to night. 

I find a flat sandy spot between some patches of brush that looks like it might be comfortable enough for four hours’ sitting. With the equipment set up and the camera clicking away I’m free to watch the reflection of the light passing through the window of the arch move up and eastward across the wall as the sun drops lower. A couple passes by my spot and climbs up into the arch. They’re up there for no more than a minute when I see the reflection vanish almost instantly as the sun drops below the horizon.
I dig a broken piece of a root out of the sand and start to excavate the area around me by the twilight. I dig a straight trench until I can’t reach any deeper. Then I widen the trench so that it will fit my thumb and forefinger and I dig deeper with the root. Next to the trench I scrape a flattened square into the sand. At the top center of the square I draw a circle. I draw arcs spiraling out from this circle with each successive layer becoming more and more elliptical until the line becomes parallel to the bottom edge of the square on the last pass. I start to flatten another square of sand but it has become too dark to see.
I stand in front of the wall and turn my face slowly from side to side. I think that I can feel the heat of the long past sunset still emanating from the wall. Wondering if I might be imagining it I close my eyes and spin in place until I’ve lost all sense of direction. I turn slowly again and with my eyes closed I perceive not just the warmth but a residual glow of a day’s worth of sunlight borne by the wall. To test it again, I walk out of the alcove. The instant that I’m no longer between the two walls the air becomes frigid without any breeze to carry the chill; it really is warmer near the wall.
Now I lay in the sand with the top of my head pointing towards the warmth of the rock. There’s no moon and the milky way shines bright, concentric with the arch to my right. I try to forget the patterns of the constellations and I look for the biggest ring of stars that I can make out of the sky, then the square with the most stars on its perimeter. I keep getting distracted by flashes of light under the double arch and the others across the field. The light painters are flashing their lights creating our own private and localized thunderstorm.

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