An Emerald on the Water

February 8, 1999

It has been said, that once you see it, you can die contented.

I have seen it twice, once with a pair of binoculars, the other time with the naked eye.

Jules Verne said that it is a wondrous green not seen anywhere else in nature.

I first heard of it while listening to a book review on NPR, years and years ago. The writer had spent the summer on the coast of Spain, and there he saw it as well.

Earlier tonight I went looking for the title of the book, but was not met with success.

It lasts only a moment, and is gone literally in "the twinkling of an eye." But, if you should be queried, and if you have seen it clearly, you will never forget it.

Like a photographer who waits for hours for the light to be just right, you may spend countless hours searching, and never really "catch" the moment. I can however, assure you that the moments of searching are glorious and will leave you with their own memories.

It is not something you would suspect you would see standing and watching the red-orange light in the western sky.

I used to think that you could only see it over the water but I have read that it can appear over any flat surface, such as a desert. It's most common home is at the edge of a large body of water.

There you stand, looking into the western sky, as the sun begins its final descent. This very orb that lights our days and warms our hearts sometimes leaves a final gift as it sinks below the horizon.

It's called "The Green Ray."

Hardly what you would suspect, that the last moment of light from the setting sun is emerald green - but if you see it, you will know it and perhaps carry the treasure with you. You cannot capture it in the sand or wear it on your hand for it is one of nature's gifts you must seek out and hold in your mind in wonder.

In order to see it, everything has to come together in preparation for one perfect moment. The light must be just right, there can be no haze in the air or clouds on the horizon to obscure the view.

And when it is just right, as the edge of the sun slides below the water, a burst of green light sparkles on the horizon and a thin ray of emerald green shoots skyward.

In the twinkling of an eye, it is gone.

Speaking of the ray, Jules Verne said that "if there is a true green in paradise, it is this green, the true green of hope."

So in your wanderings, especially along a western shore, pause and watch the setting sun. If you are fortunate, this very special emerald gift will be yours.