Friday, February 02, 2007


I have written on the topic of the awesome, yet evanescent, beauty to be found in the skies above us. Every so often, I will look up to see something heart-catchingly gorgeous, only to see it dissipate within moments.

Today, I didn’t have to look up, for I was already up: I was riding the Great Silver Aerial Bus back home, parked in a window seat on the port side of the aircraft.

As we turned westward and began to make our final approach into Atlanta, I looked out the window to see a layer of raggedy, dark grey clouds from horizon to horizon. The ground was dry, but the air was pregnant with moisture, looking as though it could rain any minute.

Wait a minute. There was one small gap in the clouds, one tiny patch of blue sky from which a cylindrical shaft of golden light shone down with the narrow intensity of a searchlight beam.

The Greeks had a word for it. The “Phallus of Zeus,” they would have called it.

The beam, visible in its entirety owing to the misty air, may have been only 200 feet wide where it intersected with the ground, illuminating a neatly drawn ellipse in the midst of south Atlanta. With more than a little frustration, I thought of my camera sitting in a closet back home.

Alas, this rare and wondrous vision was short-lived. Within twenty seconds, the gap in the clouds closed, and the golden beam was no more.

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