Friday, May 04, 2007

Hidden wells

(Paul asks if I have seen the green flash, the object of a quest I wrote about in Honey From Stone and Natural Prayers. By way of answer, let me post part of a Globe column from 1999. The flash is a brief blaze of green light sometimes seen just as the Sun rises or sets. I have left out the details of my search, and the scientific explanation of the flash; for that, you can go to one of the books.)

EXUMA, Bahamas - Morning. The sky mostly clear to the far horizon, just a few wisps of cloud far out there over the sea where the Sun will soon rise. The air is tinged pink, orange and yellow, like layers of sugar icing on the turquoise sea.

Rays stream upward -- faint vees of light defining the place where the Sun will appear. I wait, as I have waited in similar circumstances for 34 years, at sunrise and sunset, over seas and deserts, on three continents, in all seasons, north and south of the equator. For the green flash.

I have waited and watched so many times without success that the waiting and watching has become an end in itself, a quiet time to experience the beauty of sunrise or sunset, a time to reflect upon all in the world that is inexplicable, ineffable, beyond our ken.

A time of prayer to the Deus absconditus -- the hidden God.

And now -- just now -- the disk of the Sun bubbles up on the horizon. And suddenly I am startled as the top of the disk turns emerald green -- a brilliant, blazing color like none I have seen before.

The object of all that searching, found at last.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery's Little Prince told his pilot: "What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well." The green flash was my hidden well. So I am a little disappointed to have seen it, but glad too. "What's the use of praying if God does not answer?" asked the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich. If waiting and watching for the green flash for 34 years was a kind of prayer, I've had my answer.