Archive for February, 2020

Yesterday I wrote about sunsets. This morning when I opened the shutters I saw the most gorgeous example of “The Belt of Venus”.

It was every bit as compelling as the sunset I had just described…..and it was in the exact same direction…..looking West.

If the Sun was the greatest magnet we’d be drawn to watch it rise at dawn (if only we were awake and up early enough!), and it’s true that the rising of the Sun can be every bit as impressive as its setting. In fact, that phenomenon often makes me think of the scenes from “City of Angels” where the angels stand on the beach to watch the dawn. But the dawns are not usually as colourful as the sunsets, are they? When they are, when they fill the sky with rosy pink clouds, then what pops into my head is “Red sky at night, shepherds delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning.” I know there are other variations of that saying in different parts of the world, but it does somewhat detract from the delight and attraction of the dawn sky versus the one at dusk, doesn’t it?

Most mornings, however, the sky isn’t pink and I’m not that aware of the Sun rising above the Eastern horizon. After moving here to the Charente I began to notice that the Western horizon was definitely pink some mornings and that spiked my curiosity. It turns out to be a phenomenon called “The Belt of Venus” and it comes about just as the Sun rises in the East but casts a shadow of the Earth just above the Western horizon. Well, both the phenomenon itself, and it’s rather romantic and glorious name, really engaged me, and now I’m much more likely to spot it. (That makes me wonder just what else we miss every day because we don’t recognise it. How much is invisible to us, passes us by, because we don’t pay sufficient attention, and we don’t know what we are looking at?)

Well, this is February now, and according to my monthly themes, February is the month of Love. So, how appropriate that Venus should make herself known so clearly this morning. Actually, we’ve had really clear skies these last few nights and one of the brightest objects in the night sky here is currently the planet Venus, so she’s around at night, as well as leaving her mark on the dawn.

So, I’m just reminding myself of all this today…..that February is a month to practice love, and loving kindness. That fits in with one of my two words of the year as well…..”bienveillance” – which is about “meaning well”, or acting with good intentions.

I like it when things come together like this….a phenomenon, how we name that phenomenon, and all that we attach to that name, the stories which spin off in all directions along a common theme, and the influence all that has on our daily behaviour.

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I don’t know about you but I find that sunsets exert a strong magnetic pull on me. I just can’t resist them.

They capture my attention, draw me outside, inspire me to grab my camera and take a few shots. Or I just walk to the corner of the garden, look west, and bask in their beauty for a while.

I haven’t counted how many spectacular sunsets I’ve seen since moving to the Charente (and I was also SO lucky to be able to see an incredible number of fabulous sunsets around Ben Led in my years of living in a top floor flat near Stirling, Scotland). The number isn’t important. Quantity is irrelevant. It’s the quality of them – the colours, the spread, the depth, the way they change the colour of the entire landscape, and, yes, even the speed with which they change.

Have you ever tried to watch the minute hand on a clock move? It’s not easy! Sure, if there is a second hand, you are immediately aware of its constant motion, but the minute hand? Not so easy! Try watching it for five minutes. Chances are you’ll be well aware that the five minutes have passed but your mind probably went off on a wee jaunt somewhere while waiting for that time to pass, and it really won’t be easy to actually see the minute hand moving.

But stand outside as the sun just touches the western horizon and I bet you’ll find it hard to look away. I don’t find my mind drifting off anywhere as I watch these sunsets. I’m entranced by them. Of course, if its a cloudless sky I can’t (and shouldn’t) look directly at the sun. Even at that time of day it’s too bright. But when there is a little cloud there it’s easy to follow the changing patterns of light as the Sun sinks below the horizon. In fact, it’s often in those first few moments after the entire sun has disappeared below the horizon that the real beauty commences, painting the sky every shade from tobacco to crimson.

Sometimes it looks like it did last night. Just as the Sun is about to disappear it sends an astonishing flare of bright yellow light high up into the sky. It looks like the very air has caught fire! In this particular sunset that flare was concentrated so it looks for a few moments as if there is a secondary source of light in the sky. It looks as if there is a centre to the brightness which is completely detached from the actual Sun. Almost the visual equivalent of ventriloquy…..

In between the Sun itself and this secondary light cast, the edges of the clouds shone brightly. You couldn’t call this a silver lining. It’s a platinum lining.

It is just fabulous.

When I talk about “√©merveillement” this is just the kind of thing I mean.

How great to end the day with wonder, delight and amazement.

How great to feel the effects of beauty and joy wash through my being.

How about you? Do sunsets have this effect on you as well? If not, what does?

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