Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Sunne in Splendour

It's beautiful here, despite the rain. In the past week, our drought has ended with several days of rainfall that has ranged from the torrential to the pattering, and all of it a wonderful balm on the our parched fields, as well as our souls. Living in the south we expect July and August to be hot, but this particular year has been worse than usual. Fortunately, the humidity was lower than usual, but still, any day with a temperature over 95 (and we had several consecutive WEEKS of days that hot) is a drain on the water table and on the psychological well-being of everyone.

I love fall. I love the gradual changes that sneak up on us. I'm always so impressed when I suddenly see a bank of trees bronzed and gilded with afternoon light and changing leaves. We're not there quite yet, and given the 17" deficit in our rainfall this year, I doubt if we'll have much autumnal color. Still, the season is definitely starting to turn and for that, dear reader, I am exceedingly glad.

Yesterday afternoon about 6:30 I was driving Dear Daughter and Best Friend of Dear Daughter from the home of The Friend-Boy when I chanced to look at the western sky at precisely the right moment. The sun was tangled in a skein of cirrus-y cloud with long tendrils stretching out to the north. At the curled tips of the wispy cloud hovered a sun dog, brilliant in hues of green and bronze and yellow. I'd never seen one before and it's intense and surprising beauty fairly took my breath away.

For those who, like me, are largely ignorant of such things, the proper name for a sun dog is parhelion, but they are also called mock suns. They appear at a precise 22 degree angle on either side of the sun and are caused by light refracting on ice crystals in the atmosphere. We were treated to a lengthy show of color that waxed and waned as, presumably, the crystals rotated in the air. The show was truly breath-taking.

Edward Plantagenet, who ruled 15th century England as Edward IV, took the sun dog as his personal emblem. Called "the sunne in splendour," he was inspired by the appearance of parhelia on the morning of February 2, 1461, just prior to the battle at Mortimer's Cross against the Lancastrians under the command of Margaret of Anjou, Queen to the sad and devout Henry VI of England. Edward won the battle, and shortly thereafter, the crown of England, briefly putting to an end to the Wars of the Roses. His youngest brother Richard, succeeded him in a short reign that has been one of the most researched, maligned and dramatized in world history. I'm currently reading Anthony Cheetham's excellent The Life and Times of Richard III, and hope to follow it up by watching this, which takes a rather dim view of the youngest sun of York, but is cinematic excellence, nonetheless.

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