Yesterday I found myself singing Steel Rails, one of my favorite Alison Krauss songs: "Steel rails, chasin' sunshine 'round the bend, winding through the trees like a ribbon in the wind." I love that image of chasing sunshine—the gleam of sunlight on the railroad tracks always just ahead of you, the endless promise of brightness just ahead. Yesterday was a sunshine-chasing kind of day. The weather was so gorgeously warm and fine and the cottonwoods so deeply golden, that a certain itchy-footedness set in. I ended up heading down to Bosque del Apache, a nature preserve about 85 miles south of Albuquerque, following the ribbon of cottonwoods along the Rio Grande all the way down I-25.
When I've been to the preserve before, it's been in the dead of winter, usually on a vacation day in the middle of the week, and the place has been quiet and empty. On a beautiful Saturday shortly after the arrival of the sandhill cranes, snow geese, and other migrating birds, it was busy with life of all sorts: serious birdwatchers, including a pair with binoculars bigger than their sunhats; serious photographers with tripods and lens hoods, including one whose setup was practically bigger than his car (and who probably found me, with my little point-and-shoot, equally entertaining); serious bicyclists bravely eating road dust and looking happy about it; not-so-serious families entranced by shimmering dragonflies; totally unserious teen-agers riding in the back of a pickup truck; serious joggers looking uncomfortably warm but virtuous. Ostensibly, they were all there for a particular purpose, but at heart I suspect that, like me, they were really out there chasing sunshine. (The joggers may even have caught up to it.)
Chasing sunshine: tracking down the perfect day that's just beyond the next hill, the perfect photograph with exactly the right light, the ideal turn of phrase that's on the tip of your tongue, the cottonwood tree that's so golden it takes your breath away, the ducks (there is no elegant word for a duck) that might, perhaps, just on the offchance, for a few seconds, have their heads out of water.
Of course, the whole process can also be pretty pointless—an exercise in dream-chasing when reality is perfectly satisfactory. As one of our "sorbet-colored sunsets" (as a local writer likes to call them) poured through the driver's side window on the way home, I found myself wondering what I had accomplished, other than to tire myself out when I could have enjoyed totally adequate—nay, the exact same—sunshine in Albuquerque, where we also have a plentiful supply of cottonwoods and as many duck bottoms to look at as anyone really needs, with a lot less dust.
I guess sometimes you just want the thrill of the chase.