Montana, at least on the east side of the Rockies is called “Big Sky Country” because it is flat and wide. You can see a lot for a long way — miles and miles and miles. But that’s far less than any shapes and forces that can only be seen with instruments — even then, it can be hard to interpret the images. We’ve always known about the stars and moon that wheel past us on their schedules, have always realized that the migrating birds that cross like fish through the oceanic air go farther than we can imagine.

Only recently have we been able to understand another architecture of sky is of an unseen kind that comes from across the solar system, from outside our galaxy. We knew the sun had heat, but not that it had wind or tongues of fire that could lick up all our fancy technology. We’ve all forgotten that it happened once in the 19th century but at that point we were surprised that telegraphs worked at all, so it wasn’t much when they stopped. 1859, “The Carrington Event.” There goes your Gameboy.

Yet life on this planet is aware of these strange bubbles and streams. We are so evolved to night on a turning planet that without it, we’d go mad from sleeplessness except that we’ve evolved eyelids, so that for the dark hours our brains can rest and clean.

Here are links to stories about these unsuspected magnetic waves, xrays, gamma rays, solar flares, and atmospheric rivers that echo the great sea loops that carried the first big sailing ships and washed bluegreen Japanese glass net floats onto the Oregon shore.

The air is all in turmoil, establishing the climates below just long enough for us to adapt to them, and then exploding, dumping floods on us, creating winds that can’t be resisted, carrying dust from one continent to another, and then denying rain until the earth cracks.

These stories introduce ideas about bubbles bigger than the Milky Way from end to end, but still smaller than the North Polar Spur. How does a bubble have a pole anyway? I had never heard of “starburst galaxies” which are thought to be innumerable new stars popping into existence but then exploding. I guess there was no place for them. This can’t be called geology because we only have one geos, which is earth, so it must be architecture of the mind, perceived and described metaphorically.

It’s all energy, of course, the same as the electromagnetic forces of the atom and the energy that beomes life itself when it is swallowed or breathed by the creatures of this planet. Comes in as food or oxygen, is used and passed on out as mammal ash and plant food. The abiding question we ask — is there any other place where this happens? We ask, “Why are we here?”

Today we have learned how to launch our small voyagers so far that we describe the distance in time and rather than rockets we use the impelling gravity of planets and the sweeping wind of the sun to move the little space-boats across years.

But this has less to do with our daily lives in Northern America than the air streams that bring our weather and a surprising amount of soil, carrying African sand to fertilize the Amazon.

Atmospheric rivers occur globally, affecting the west coasts of the world’s major land masses, including Portugal, Western Europe, Chile and South Africa. When they must rise to cross mountain ranges, they create the catabatic winds we in Montana call Chinook.

The other famous ones have names:

  • Sirocco, Southern Europe. …
  • Mistral, Southern France. …
  • Cape Doctor, South Africa. …
  • Chinook, Canada. …
  • Santa Ana, California, USA. …
  • Khamsin, Egypt. …
  • Fremantle Doctor, Western Australia. …
  • Pampero, Argentina and Uruguay.

I don’t know how doctors got into it. PhD in wind? Putting hell down?

Here on the prairie we know the edges of wind, can see them coming with heralds of dust and hunting birds looking for small mammals seeking cover. Some carry snow. We’ve become acquainted with the “polar vortex” which is a loop of the jet stream normally steady overhead, but not usually carrying polar extreme cold. There are more of them now and they last longer. We have changed the climate but deny it

We live in a magnetosphere, which can be disrupted by solar wind. “As the wind flows toward Earth, it carries with it the Sun’s magnetic field. It moves very fast, then smacks right into Earth’s magnetic field. The blow causes a shock to our magnetic protection, which can result in turbulence.”

If a massive solar storm hit the earth directly, the entire planet would go into darkness. The solar storm is a giant cloud of hot plasma and electromagnetic radiation that the sun ejects when it opens its coronal holes. … Within 30 minutes, the flares would reach Earth’s magnetosphere and trigger a geomagnetic storm.

Sky shows can be overwhelming on the prairie. We are accustomed to water traveling in air, forming clouds we can give names: cumulus, cirrus, and the like according to the atmospheric forces. Some carry electricity and zap the earth with lightning or smash together as though they were far more solid than vaporous. The light effects can be colored if there are particles in the air from fire or if the light itself is bent and slid to the red waves of the spectrum.

Perhaps the most beautiful effects are the aurora, “northern lights,” filling the sky with curtains of green, manycolored fractals, and fluid dancing that are really plasma streams from the sun. Even those who claim they are the most humble of humans, must gape and shiver at these sights. They don’t trigger epiphanies because they ARE epiphanies, the stained glass windows of the sky cathedral.

Born in Portland when all was calm just before WWII. Educated formally at NU and U of Chicago Div School. Clergy for ten years. Always happy on high prairie.