Friday, January 18, 2013
We arrived in San Simeon in time to unpack and engage in our usual ritual, a walk down to the beach to make sure the sun was going to set and we would be there to witness it.
We waited on traffic before crossing Highway One, and I said to my wife, "It's not just that we left the valley, it's more like we've entered another season, spring. I doubt there was a bit of wind here this afternoon and it feels so much warmer."
"Yeah, and look at the ocean down there. It's smooth as a lake."
We walked along the surf with a sun still one finger above the horizon. I made the usual observation that it was a perfect time to find moonstones or sea glass what with the sun so low that anything translucent between us and the surf would light up like a beacon. It was an enjoyable walk after being cramped in the car for several hours, but we found little worth pocketing.
Just before climbing the steps leading to a view of the cove, I found a small rock and showed it to my wife.
"This shows some promise if polished." She agreed and I wondered whether the glow came from the rock itself or was just a reflection of the deep orange sunset due any moment. We sat down on a bench and waited.
"Do you think we're going to see the supposed 'green flash' that everyone talks about?"
"I think so. Conditions are right."
She laughed, "As if you know what those conditions are."
"No seriously, Deb. We've got clouds, a vertical reflection above and below the sun--even a slight rainbow on the horizon to the north."
"I just hope we don't both blink at the same moment and miss it," I said.
"Right. And those surfers putting away their boards behind us will all be going 'ooh!' and 'ahh!' and we'll be going 'what?' 'what?'"
We were both laughing when another couple walked up the steps, about our age--old enough to request a senior discount at a fast food joint or show an AARP card to motel clerk without too much shame.
The man looked at us while we held hands. "That looks like a good idea." They sat down on the bench next to us, and we waited for the sun to make its glorious exit.
"Weird how those clouds seem unnaturally flattened as they fade into the horizon," I said.
"Kind of like you're watching TV without a High Def signal and everybody looks squished down," my wife responded and we giggled again.
After a few more minutes the sun descended into the ocean, show over. The couple on the other bench crossed in front of us to begin their walk up the hill, probably returning to their motel room. The man turned to me and said something a little strange, "Enjoy your life."
I liked his enthusiasm and said, "Yes, life can be measured by great sunsets."
Abruptly he stopped, smiled like he had known me all my life, and said with an erie matter of fact tone, "It can be measured in MINUTES."
"There you go," was all I could think of to say back.
We waited a few more minutes after they left. Still no green flash. The air had cooled noticeably, and the sudden darkness of a January evening was closing in. So we started our walk up the hill.
"You know," I said, "that guy who spoke to me a while ago probably shares my life attitude: live your life in the here and now. Don't spoil the present by regretting the past or fretting about the future."
But my wife is sadly immune to my philosophic musings, often ignoring them, after having had to listened to them too many times.
So she said instead, "I wonder if there really is such a thing as a green flash. Maybe some tourist council made it all up in order to get people to stay longer, at least until sunset."
"Could be, and the REAL green flash is how fast their money disappears while eating overpriced dinners at local restaurants."
As I said this, a dark green SUV hauled fast across the bridge to our left. We waited until we saw it slow, turn signals blinking and started our walk across the highway. But my peripheral vision told me something wasn't right; I no longer registered signal lights and realized the vehicle was beginning to speed up--and so did my heart. We were still holding hands, and I jerked my wife back, doing my best not to rip her arm out of its socket.
She didn't understand.
With a rush of wind, the green SUV flashed before us.
The guy at the bench was right--minutes, maybe mere seconds.