Are you a sunset watcher? My parents were sunset devotees. I have sunset appreciation in my DNA. I’ve been privileged to observe the elusive green flash just as the setting sun slides silently beyond the visualized horizon. The latest plume of special coloring happened with my children on Winter Solstice. With an ocean-wave symphony in the background, we were treated to nature’s special effects along Hawaii’s Kona Coast. Capturing a photo of this momentary green gem is rare.
Several conditions coincide to create this refraction phenomenon of sun rays:
- Pollution is absent.
- The sky is cloudless at the horizon.
- The horizon is in clear view.
While a green flash is the “usual” burst of unusual sunset coloring, sometimes the color is vivid blue. It is possible to see a green or blue flash in sunrises, but it occurs just as sunshine pokes above the observed horizon. The atmosphere functions like a kaleidoscope prism and separates light into colors.
Light is like a special friend. We savor it. When one’s days approach the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, winter comments frequently reference the importance of reaching Solstice and moving into longer daytime hours.
Consider the importance of light in treasured holidays at this time of year. Diwali, India’s most important holiday (celebrated in November), is called a festival of lights. The 5-day holiday is named after a row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) placed outside Indian homes to symbolize an inner light or spiritual awakening within people. Originally a Hindu tradition, today the national holiday is celebrated by Jain, Sikh, and Buddhist communities also.
The Hanukkah story celebrates the light lasting day after day even when there was not enough oil in the menorah or candelabrum. When families light each candle for 8 days, they may say a blessing to give thanks for miracles, including the capacity to love and the blessing of receiving love. Kwanzaa, a secular African American celebration of ancestral roots (December 26-January 1st), also has candle lighting significance — 7 candles celebrate unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
The light in the Christmas story includes wise men (or early astronomers) who were avid sky-watchers. These magi (often referred to as kings), may have come from different countries. A later story gave their origins as Persia, India, and Arabia. They followed light of a specific star (or planet) to locate Bethlehem where they found the newly born Jesus. Each wise person brought a gift; gold, frankincense and myrrh were offered to the humble family. The very bright star was a prophecy that held religious significance as delivering hope to the world.
These shared themes of light and hopeful purpose have meaning today. Let’s teach school children about the similarities of treasured holiday (holy-day) traditions. Sunsets, sunrises, and the special effects of nature’s light are meant for everyone.
Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz
145. What does winter mean to you?
146. When do you experience the gift of “light” in your life?