Making a Bonfire of a Cloud

You never know with sunsets. The ones that look as if they might turn into magic fade into grey and darkness with nary a hint of color, and the nights you think it’s not worth opening the blinds? Crimson and gold seep in through the gaps, taunting you for your forecasting folly.

So I set out with mild hopes and the need for exercise. After some indecision, I headed west, in part so I would have the wind at my back on the way home, once it started really getting chilly. The dew-point/frost-point was in the teens Fahrenheit. When the sun disappeared, so would any heat in the air. I could smell wood smoke, and whatever the icky, heavy and black smelling stuff they’re burning three houses up, one over. It felt good to stretch my legs, and the chill in the air faded as I picked up the pace.

As minutes passed, the western sky began taking on colors of flame. The clouds ignited, turning to ribbons and then sheets of rippled metallic rose that darkened to glowing crimson. Gold touched the edges of the clouds, and dripped over the western horizon. The eastern sky blushed to rose, soft and gentle. The wind sheathed its claws. Pink and red washed the northern sky as well, hinting that the sun had begun migrating towards the equator. I turned north, glancing to the west as I strode along the street. Exhaust from cars, the smell of “fried” from fast food places, and the occasional scent of dryer sheets touched the evening air.

Rose turned to lavender in the east. The west glowed, ablaze, reflecting the now-hidden sun. Orange began igniting lower clouds, and silver replaced purple as the tiniest sliver of waxing moon ghosted into view. I walked steadily, alternating glances east and west, and looking for cars. I didn’t hear any birds, and one dog informed the world that he was alert and ready for the intruder passing outside of his fence. Wooden props hold the old fence in a sort of slouch, and the gate has blown open in the past, letting the pit bull out to roam. I didn’t linger near that house. The crisp evening encouraged a brisk pace.

Not long after I turned east, heading for the house, the light behind me changed. What had begun fading into grey-lavender and ash-of-roses reignited, turning the western sky into sheets of blazing crimson. I found an empty lot and stopped, leaning on my walking cane and staring at the show. Brilliant red covered the western sky, tattered sheets, rippling sheets, fringed in gold. Lavender edged in from north and south, but the clouds appeared reluctant to release their fire.

At last, night won. Red burned out, and ashy grey gave way to darkness. The evening star appeared, then Aldebaran, Sirius, Rigel, and the other touchstones of the winter sky. With some reluctance I resumed my walk, half-unwilling to return to the house. That would mean the end of the glorious night, of skies too beautiful for mere words to catch, skies that cried out for a song.


9 thoughts on “Making a Bonfire of a Cloud

  1. Sumptuous description. I’ve seen and photographed a number of ocean sunsets like that. You don’t want to leave the light display until the last faint gray curtain falls.

  2. A couple of nights ago, we had exceptionally clear skies in time for doggy duty. The haze and thin clouds that have been obscuring the night sky all month took a break, and my favorite winter constellation made its appearance. Orion was in good form, and I found that even with my reworked retinas, the belt and sword were naked eye visible with slightly averted vision. The cluster at the end of the sword showed up, and I checked out the Pleiades.

    I went in and grabbed my 7 x 50 Nikon binocs; purchased for Halley’s Comet in 1986, and lightly used. Glorious sight. Enough light gathering so that averted vision wasn’t needed.

    Haze and thin clouds last night, but I can wait for clear skies again.

    Glorious sunsets, clear night skies. I’ll take either one if He offers. Thank you, Lord!

  3. I always loved the sunsets in Albuquerque, as the sun shone on the Sandia Mountains.

    The best one I ever saw was an overcast day in Tucson, when the sun got to the horizon and shined up INSIDE the overcast.

  4. We had a really good sunrise like that about a week back. It was shockingly bright — I could see the light from it splashing all over, before I turned the corner and could see it out the window.

    The sad thing is that sunrises and sunsets like that do not last very long around here.

    • You’re very welcome. Panhandle weather tends to be pretty good, or “The geese are using guide dogs and white canes” foggy. There’s little in-between.

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