A few years back I was reading some posts on TripAdvisor. A lady had just gotten back from her trip and actually said something about the sunset she viewed from Rick’s Café being “bad”.
First, let’s get something clear. There is no such thing as a “bad” sunset. It’s when the sun doesn’t set that’s “bad”.
We can’t very well talk about Negril without talking about sunsets. As it is situated at the western most tip of the island it is known for its spectacular sunsets…from the beach, from the cliffs…there’s really no “best” place to watch it…its all good.
Sunset time is a ritual for us almost every day. We try to stop what we are doing at that moment to pay attention and sit quietly for ten minutes, watching the burning globe as it melts into the sea. Liz, upon watching a sunset from the Sunset Cave at our yard remarked…”you can see the earth move from here”…she’s’ right, that’s actually what you are seeing as well as the curvature of the planet as the horizon gobbles up the last bits of the day.
No, there are no “bad” sunsets…but there are sunsets that are more spectacular than others for a variety of reasons. The best, in my opinion are the ones that produce a phenomenon called a “Green Flash”. It is rare and it is incredible. The ingredients for a Green Flash would be a perfectly clear horizon…no clouds on the horizon at all. As the sun dips into what appears to be the sea, growing smaller and smaller – as the last little drop dips in you’ll see what appears to be a “flash” of bright glowing green just at the very end. It lasts less than a second – blink and you’ll miss it. “ Green flashes are real (not illusory) phenomena seen at sunrise and sunset, when some part of the sun suddenly changes color (at sunset, from red or orange to green or blue). The word “flash” refers to the sudden appearance and brief duration of this green color, which usually lasts only a second or two…” It’s an atmospheric thing. Whatever the explanation, it’s cool as hell and is often accompanied by whoops and applause from the sunset viewer.
Next best, in my opinion would be when there are dotted clouds on the horizon and those thin, wispy clouds higher up in the sky. That makes the whole sunset viewing thing much more interesting. As the sun descends it’s light colors the clouds as it passes “through” them…the sun peeking out in between the scattered higher clouds, then descending into the horizon through and around those dotted clouds. Great shapes and even better colors.
The sky literally lights up in pinks, purples, oranges and every shade of red…leaving an orange glow at the horizon once it’s gone and that deep blue of the oncoming night with it’s shining first star…sends chills up my spine. The beauty is so incredible it takes your breath away and makes you oh so aware of your life and the splendor of the planet.
The sunset ritual for me is best when I have the opportunity to be alone with it…sitting quietly in the sunset cave, feeling the heat of the day from the ledge/rock I am sitting upon and praying – thanking god for all my blessings. God and I, we have a rapport in Jamaica unlike we do anywhere else. We speak just about every evening at this special time. Well, I speak and God listens. God listens and I pay attention.
Watching sunset every evening is an integral part of each day in Negril for us. We stop what we are doing if we can and wherever we are we sit and stare at the horizon as the sea swallows the sun, ending one day, beginning one night and promising a new day the next day. Depending on where I am I try to take those moments to reflect, pray and pay attention; just be as quiet as I can as I watch for subtleties that make each sunset unique. The Green Flash is of course something we watch and hope for. I take notice of the earth’s movement; as each week passes the place on the horizon where the sun sets moved just a bit north each day. We take notice of this about a month into our stay; it still blows me away that I am able to actually NOTICE this, pay attention to it to the point where it became a part of each evening’s sunset ritual. I’m so proud that I am able to become so in tune with the planet and the universe to actually see and feel the earth move. How cool is that. Well pretty cool but when one is privileged enough to actually catch a moonset and/or a moonrise the whole planetary movement and universal dance becomes all that much cooler.
Moonsets are tricky to catch and one would think that you need to stay up really late to see it. Not true; the moon can and will set as early as 2:00am and as late into the next day as 9:00am. I am fortunate in that where I live we occasionally see a moonrise; the most beautiful being in October just as it’s getting dark and the moon is full; it’s huge and it’s orange and it stops you dead in your tracks. I saw one moon rise in Jamaica in 2008 and Jessie actually pointed it out; it was happening just as the sun was setting; the moon was peaking up above the canopy just as the sun began to dip into the horizon. I caught three moonsets this year as well, all in the last week that I was on-island. Early in the week the moon dipped into the sea, not quite full but on its way; glowing orange and casting an orange glowing reflection on the water as it went away for the night. Twice in that week we watched that phenomenon; an orange moon set into the blackness of the sea and the night. The most special moonset though was on our last night in Jamaica that year and it happened just at sunrise; the skies were already somewhat lit from the rising sun in the east and the full moon dipped down into the blue sea at the same time.
Situated on the western most part of the island sunrises are a bit tricky to watch but its beautiful to observe the night sky turn into the day sky. As the sun rises it casts glorious colors; oranges, bright pinks even purples to beckon its arrival and the colors light the sky into a wide spectrum of blues, gradually lightening each shade until it has topped the canopy to the east bringing tranquil morning. Darkest before the dawn? So true especially on nights when the moon has long set and the sky seems almost black speckled with stars; at dawn when the sun rises and the moon has already set you can watch that blackness turn deep blue, lightening shade by shade as on a color wheel and slowly those sparkling stars fade away. You know you’ve stayed up way too late perhaps but it doesn’t matter.
It is an especially indescribable feeling to simultaneously watch the moon set and the sun rise no matter what is happening on the planet at that moment it is the universal order of things; day fades into night, fades into day; seamlessly and peacefully. That peaceful feeling fills the heart and soul and you know, you don’t think, you KNOW that no matter what every little thing is gonna be alright.
Our days are often filled with light and activity – and depending on where you live even the nights are – street lights, city lights even the lights of downtown Negril cast into the sky to the point where the stars are not always quite visible.
On the west end there is not as much; save a street light or two so star gazing is a treat especially when the moon is new. On nights where there is no moon and no lights to disrupt the dance of the heavens it almost feels like the night sky is so low you can touch it – millions of dazzling points dancing and forming shapes – I was pleased to be able to see the Southern Cross many times in Negril. It is something I always look for “when you see the southern cross for the first time – you understand now why you came this way” It is my theme song every New Years Eve when we find ourselves on our friend’s rooftop gazing at the heavens – then she appears, rising in the eastern sky brightening as the night progresses – she’s hard to miss which is why she is a navigation point in that part of the world. It is a piece of heaven I only can see in that part of the world – she eludes us here this far north of the equator. On our last night in 2008 while in Little Bay I looked up and there she was – she took me by surprise and made me stand still – still light in the sky she slowly came to life, each star in each point brightening gradually.
In Jamaica I become connected again with our planet, grounded in its earthly beauty and taking the time to praise each bright flower, each small critter, each unique bird. But in Jamaica I become equally in tuned with the planet’s movement and place in the universe and allow my head to be in the sky even if just for a while
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