I saw a sundog this morning, a parhelion, a little piece or rainbow floating in the sky. The sun was peeking through the scuttling clouds and there, off to one side was a small patch of ethereal colours; there for a moment and then like Robert Louis Stevenson’s mill and river, gone forever.
I like the ephemeral nature of such things. Seeing interesting shapes in the clouds, rainbows, crepuscular rays, meteors, flashes of lightning. Things that you have to be in the right place at the right time to see, to appreciate. Watching the sun rise out of the sea. Standing on a hill and seeing off in the distance a lone cloud pouring its rain onto the plain below. That short period of time as the setting sun slips below the clouds and paints them all with fire.
My partner and I were in Australia in 2012, a four week sojourn to the other side of the planet, staying with friends. The visit was timed to coincide with a total eclipse of the sun which was due to occur about an hour after sunrise. On the appointed morning we all walked down to the beach; we were in Cairns on the east coast of Queensland so the sun had risen out of the sea and there were hundreds of people there, staring out to sea, expectantly waiting.
There were a few clouds in the sky but nothing to worry about; it was shaping-up to be another glorious day in Far North Queensland. Then, a few minutes before the eclipse was due, a large bank of cloud floated into view from behind us, from inland and managed to cover the sun during the moments of totality. It got dark, streetlights on the road behind us came on; their light sensors tricked into believing that dusk had arrived. People started taking photographs; I could see flashes going-off along the beach. The moon raced across the disc of the sun, the cloud floated in a far less hurried way in the opposite direction, the light returned.
A little way up and down the coast north and south of us they reported perfect conditions; we had a cloud, albeit a fleeting cloud that soon passed but it had conspired to obscure something even more fleeting and ephemeral. I kind of like that too, to have been in that one spot where all that was going on.