I’ve spent a few summers in East Africa. The first time I went I read every travel book I could lay my hands on. I remember one that had a picture of the sky and a few wispy clouds – and some caption about the beauty of the African skies.
Paul Simon came out with his Graceland album the year before with the hit song “African Skies.” It added to the mystique and the romance of the whole idea, but the reality that I experienced made me a bit resentful of tourists who only saw the Africa of the travel books.
From what I remember, those literal skies don’t come close to what I see here every day. We were far away from any city so the night sky was just black; had I known my constellations better, I’m sure I would have appreciated the differences in the stars. Dusk at the equator lasts all of about 15 minutes. Boom – the sun just drops below the horizon.
In these more northern latitudes (I’m at 51 degrees north) dusk is at least an hour long – lots of time to enjoy the subtle shifts in colour and density. The clouds by day are just as fascinating – you can see the changes but can’t always see them change. Sometimes one layer of clouds rushes past another; and the light – the way the light rims or illuminates the clouds – it’s breathtaking if you let it be.
I have successfully slowed down.
Paul Simon and Miram Makeba - Under African Skies – live from The African Concert in Harare, Zimbabwe, 1987. (To this day I’m in love with the music of southern Africa)