portraits of nature
( summer sunsets stimulate the senses )
by “porcupine pat” mckinney
mauve, bisque, vermilion, and puce are names of colors that don’t easily come to mind when speaking of summer scenery. all of the above can be found in a virtual artist’s palette featuring striking summer sunset scenery, though for a fleeting moment.
you’ve seen a sunset change in three blinks of an eye, especially on these longer days that are becoming shorter as we are now well into the south side of the solstice (google “sunset today in philadelphia” to see the exact minute of the sunset and how the time gets earlier and earlier, as summer weeks pass us by). breathtaking views tantalize the eye with resplendent colors, and prominently in this niche of the commonwealth, with its gently rolling landscape and huggable horizon-lines of treetops.
“red skies at night, sailor’s delight; red skies in the morning, sailors take warning” is an age-old adage that speaks the truth to the student of nature and its inner workings. a red sunrise can possibly speak of an impending weather change in a negative direction, meaning to expect showers, high winds, and blustery conditions.
those sailors should heed this natural warning for choppy waters, as a thunderstorm is not safe for life or limb ! no sailor should find an express route to davy jones’ locker too soon !
but, it is those red skies at night that add to the thrill of teasing that “inner artist” within us all. connoisseurs of sunsets typically love fireworks with that blaze of colors, and of course, flame-spent fall foliage.
why do sunsets happen ? this is a good question which has answers in how light and skies work together.
sunlight that we see shining is actually a compilation of all colors of the rainbow. daytime finds sunlight shining through the atmosphere with some of the blue light being scattered by the molecules in the air. this is called “rayleigh scattering,” and this is the blue that you see scattered across the sky during daytime. it leaves sunlight looking yellowish as opposed to being a whitish hue.
( a sky-view from douglass drive in douglass township, berks county )
during sunrise or sunset, that sunshine is blazing through a much thicker section of atmosphere because it has to pass across the width of the earth as well as through the vertical thickness of air to get to your eyeballs. (note: wildlife biologists call sunrise and sunset “crepuscular time,” and it is the time when most wildlife is active. you have both the day shift and then the night shift of critters active at this time.)
because of this, more and more of the blue light is scattered, so that there are only the red, yellow, and orange wavelengths left to reach your eyes because these hues move less quickly and stay more visible. different types of cloud formations and varying density and composition of the air dictate the specific colors, shapes, and patterns that you enjoy. sunsets are like mulberry leaves—no two are alike.
this is the “science” behind the ingredients that comprise our sunsets. the general spectator of sunsets is simply thrilled with the pageantry unfolding before their own eyes. summer sunsets “rock,” as some sky-spectators have stated !
there are plenty of places to prop up a lawn chair or a spread out a blanket to enjoy the show. why not make it an evening “after-work” picnic ?
there is no better way to end the day than to take advantage of the summery conditions and a freebie show in the sky.
experience a sunset along a water habitat such as green lane. the water’s mirror-like surface reflects, in fact, echoes the skies above the horizon. even along the schuylkill river trail which parallels the river are some spots to check out the sunset scenery.
higher ground is also a good idea, although be sure to leave before it gets too dark. one favorite spot are the lookout rocks at monocacy hill. what a treat !
summer is ripe for minutes spent outside, or even hours, if your schedule permits. make it your time to enjoy all that nature offers, especially the sunsets and sunrises, too.