Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Sundogs and Reading the Message

Photo Credit: Erik Axdahl
A few months ago, on my way home, I saw a weather phenomenon called a Sun Dog.

Sun dogs, technically called solar parhelia, appear as bright bursts of light formed when sunlight passes through ice crystals at the proper angle. They usually occur when the sun is low and close to the horizon. Sun dogs are sometimes so brilliant that dazzled observers mistake them for the sun. They are often bright white but may show a partial rainbow with the red color on the edge nearest the sun. Sun dogs many times look comet-like with a bluish-white tail facing away from the sun.

I have seen this phenomenon once before and it is striking when viewed. There are stories in folklore that suggest Sun Dogs are some kind of omen of change, but most stories say that they predict bad weather. There is some truth to these stories, as the conditions that produce the Sun Dogs often contribute to rain or snow soon after appearing. In fact, when I saw the Sun Dog, it rained heavily for the next several days.

There is much that we can learn and know about our environment just by observing it. I think sometimes people are fearful of nature because it is such a big mystery. But, when one can walk outside and observe the type of clouds in the sky and know what kind of weather they bring or notice that birds gathering at feeders in crowds can indicate an impending cold spell or snow storm, nature becomes something less fearful. Nature can be a companion, a friend, a source of insight and awareness for daily life.

I believe it is important to make friends with nature, not only to gain insight in the weather and coming changes around us, but as a way to preserve a future for nature and ourselves. It is much harder to treat nature badly and take nature for granted when we are friends with it. When we know that the birds, the wind and weather are friends who communicate information to us, it becomes problematic to let such things suffer by our actions or neglect.

The next time you look out the window or take a walk outside. Observe nature. What is nature communicating to you? If you don't get the message right away, don't fret, sometimes it takes a little while to make friends, right? Nature is the same. Be nice, say hi, make an effort...you will be amazed by the life long companion you will have gained.


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