Monday, September 6, 2010

Green Flash

I have been reading Don't Stop The Carnival, a novel by Herman Wouk of the trials and tribulations of owning a Caribbean guest house and a passage about Norman Paperman seeing the famous green flash caught my mental recollector. Several guests left their tables and joined the watching crowd. It was a remarkably clear evening. The sun, it's lower edge already sliding below the purple horizon, was bright as gold. The shiny disk sank to half it's size, reddening and dimming. It went lower turning orange-red, shrinking moment by moment. Soon there was only a glistening orange fragment poked above the ocean- and at that moment Paperman saw it. In the instant of it's vanishing, the last bit of sun turned green. There was a wave of chatter along the rail. Some had seen it, some hadn't, and everyone was talking at once.
I spent years looking out to see hoping for a green flash. In California such a thing isn't possible owing to the fog obstructing the horizon. When I traveled to more benign climates I looked for the mythical green flash. When we sailed south along the coast of Mexico and Central America we looked for the green flash all the way to the Panama Canal and failed to see it. In the Caribbean sailing to Key West, I failed to spot anything remotely resembling a green flash. I despaired.
Then I took a job as a boat captain taking visitors sailing almost every single day around the Key West harbor. Every evening on the water we told clients to look for the green flash as the sun set and sometimes they claimed to see it and tipped me handily for the experience. Then one day I finally saw it; I knew I had seen it and had no doubt. Later that week I saw it again. I have seen the green flash twice. Nowadays I look for it half heartedly because I have seen it and I am satisfied. Only in Key West did I ever see the damned thing, and after thousands of miles of open water sailing and never once. And then twice in one week in Key West. Weird.

(all photos Wikipedia)