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Roxane B. Salonen, Published February 08 2013

Living Faith: Take time to view God’s canvas in skies

I don’t remember exactly what prompted it, but several years ago my eyes started wandering upward, and I’ve had a permanent but welcomed crick in my neck ever since.

“Why did it take so long to notice?” I whisper while peering into the expansive, prairie sky, spotting the latest treasure.

Recently I was out on an evening errand and caught sight of a particularly dazzling sunset, with all varieties of oranges, pinks and purples. Frustrated I couldn’t get quite the right view for a good photo, I started chasing it – chasing down the sky.

By the time I got what I wanted, I could see Casselton. “You’re crazy,” I said out loud while turning back for home. “Oh, but it was so worth it,” I added, smiling.

I’ve captured many images that are, by others’ accounts, breathtakingly spectacular. I even have a few viewing spots staked out along the school route, and will go out of my way some mornings just to freeze in time these stunning, fleeting images and share them on Facebook.

For a while, I thought it was just the sky in general, but then friends from other parts of the country began commenting on the extraordinary North Dakota skies.

“Please, keep those sky shots coming,” they said, helping me to appreciate all the more the palette from above.

My kids used to roll their eyes when they sensed I was about to pull over the van to get the right frame. But in time they grew accustomed to my skyward obsession.

Sometimes, when I’m at the wheel, my daughters will offer to take over sky-photo duty. They’ve managed to produce some very nice digital sky-paintings in the process.

And my boys have become my best critics. “Wow, that’s cool,” my mesmerized youngest will say when I’ve nailed it. He knows a good sky shot when he sees it now.

To think I might have caved to the sighs and shrugs a couple years back. My kids would have missed what I’ve come to know: that these moments in time are more than coincidence.

I now find in these astounding canvases, where cloud meets color, shadow meets light and the sun makes both its morning debut and grand finale, to be sweet messages from God.

God is the grand artist, after all, and the sky, his easel. We are the blessed spectators, fortunate to be witnessing the hour-by-hour grandeur.

Sometimes the sky not only inspires but comforts. One particularly dark time in my life, I was driving out of town, an overwhelming sense of despair bearing down. Suddenly, above a field to the left, I caught sight of the most incredible rainbow.

This is what I heard coming from the sky that day: “It’s going to be OK, Roxane.”

“OK,” I said, tears dripping down. “Thanks.” I pulled over and let them flow, rinsing out the sadness, the rainbow still glowing nearby.

It’s not always that dramatic, though. Often the message is a simple, “Top of the morning to you!”

But what I mostly hear in these sky images, so vibrant and wild, is this: I love you.

Thankfully, I’m not alone in my passion. On days a particularly bold proclamation comes across the sky, my Sunset Sister, Pat, will text me, “Did you see that one, Roxane? If not, get outside – now!”

I’d encourage you to give it a try. You’ll no doubt feel a little silly at first. Others in your life might think you’ve cracked. But in time, you’ll wear your new sky-gazer title proudly.

And I hope eventually you’ll not only see the artistic masterpiece but hear the accompanying audio as well.

“Beloved child, you think this is good? Just wait until you see what else I have up my sleeves.”

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Roxane Salonen is a freelance writer who lives in Fargo with her husband and five children. If you have a story of faith to share with her,

email roxanebsalonen@gmail.com.