Parhelion

Two years ago, for a reason I cannot even recall, I asked my brother to bring his new camera on a walk in the hope that we could film the sunset over the nearby marshland. We met the usual dog walkers on the way and stopped on a likely spot, with a bit of solid rock to stand on if needed.

As the sun began to dip, one of the dog walkers stayed too. He watched us and watched the sun, his dog the whole time running in and up and out of the long grasses that fill the marshy riverbed.

"Why are you doing it?" he asked.

I smiled. "Because it's so beautiful."

The stranger blinked and grinned. He liked the novelty of the answer. 

"We all should!" he said and with that he settled on the rock nearby to watch the setting sun.

It was no ordinary sun. I do not know how common Parhelion are - the phenomenon of seeing apparently three suns - a brighter central (the actual) sun and one on either side, weaker but visible. I knew of it as a possibility from the history of Mortimer's Cross, in the time of the Wars of the Roses, when Edward IV could point at the three suns in the sky and under such a remarkable "sign", rally support for the Yorkist cause. I even recalled that someone said he might really have had three suns in the sky, had it been a "parhelion".

As we sat, the only night in 30 odd years that I had chosen to watch the setting sun, three suns appeared. It was more beautiful than I had expected. More beautiful than our dog walking companion had expected. When the sun had truly gone over the horizon point and the sky was darkening rapidly, we started to wend our way back a mile or so towards home. We bid farewell to the dog walker, fixed as he was on the rock, still staring at the place where the sun - or suns - had been.

The beauty of the created world is too often owned by the modern pagan, with his worship of nature as a god. It is easy to swing to the opposite end of the pendulum. Some swing so far as to see the Lord in all creation, a sort of pantheism. But there is no need to fall into either trap. We need only look with the eyes we have been given at the work of our Creator and say with him, It is good.