Serendipity and Ephemerality

Making twilight more beautiful, since the dawn of time

Because I nearly missed it, and because it wasn’t going to be around long, I seemed far more concerned than anyone else that tonight’s twilight, in this time and place, was full of beautiful and unexpected colors, in beautiful and unexpected places.

I suppose it started with an ordinary decision to walk the dog. The pavement was still drying off after a short but torrential rain half an hour before, but the precipitation seemed to have stopped.

Once we were actually trudging along–with frequent stops to smell the bushes–I noticed that it was still raining. Not much, but a few drops more than “sprinkling.” And as we got toward the point of no return, it seemed to be picking up. “I guess we’ll just make this a loop around the block,” I thought.

But because I sometimes seem a plaything for the gods, even that light rain abated just as I approached the front door. And so, in a stroke of luck, I decided it was necessary to head off again.

And I’m so glad I did. The colors, the shapes, the shadows I saw. It was unquestionably one of the ten best sunsets and twilights I’ve seen in my life. I’m tempted to arbitrarily rank it at number two.

As the sun set over the mountains to the west, the yellow faded into orange and pink. But more interesting was the sight to the east, where a pink wall of clouds served as the backdrop for some curiously formed pieces of gray fluff. Further south, there was a billowy cloud. I’d call it a mushroom cloud but for the apocalyptic connotation.

There was, just past that, the slightest hint of a rainbow. Though gauzy and lacking definition, it seemed to be projected exactly onto another background of cloud. And directly south was a large gray thunderhead of a cloud. But in that large gray thunderhead of a could was some truly unexpected red. As if there was a command center, lit in red for dramatic effect, exactly in the middle of it. “Let’s really wow them tonight,” were the words that echoed out from that room.

As time went on, it changed magnificently. There was, for a time, a perfectly formed map of England, with just the slightest suggestion of Wales off to it’s west. There was also a dramatic looking dogpile, with just one more player running up to jump on top.

And it did, of course, become less brilliant. The pinks and oranges that were for a time vibrant, became duller, then grayish, now completely invisible. The sky was undeniably becoming a uniform dull gray as we hit the home stretch, but perhaps as a solitary reminder that it knew it put on a show, the sky offered, for a minute, a dull teal unlike anything I’d seen before. Red, pink, orange, blue, even yellow, these are color the sky has offered a million times before. A green, even a dull one, is an unquestionable oddity.

I was a little sad when even that hint of teal faded into a dull and darkening gray. The majesty, which it seemed no one else noticed, was gone. I’d seen a show few others did, but neither I nor they could enjoy it now. And even I would have missed it, if not for some inexplicable luck that made me realize that once around the block wasn’t really a long enough walk.

So here it is, my conclusion: beauty is heightened by it’s passing, elevated by all the times that it’s missed. Art that is widely recognized as possessing great beauty, therefore preserved endlessly and unchangingly in humidity and temperature controlled chambers, monuments to man’s effort to overcome ephemerality, are made less beautiful and less interesting for their persistence. The Mona Lisa may be nice, but her unchanging face makes her much less interesting than a sunset.

4 responses to “Serendipity and Ephemerality”

  1. very cool. it’s neat how you didn’t take a picture, which leaves you only to describe, which gives it a different meaning.

    i saw one of the best sunsets of my life last week. it was the remanants of the tropical storm “cristobal” off the carolina coast. i posted it on my blog but it doesn’t do justice to what i actually saw. just looks like a decent sunset picture.