Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

Sunset in the Outback

Written 17 September

The sun is a different thing here in the Outback. When it is directly overhead your skin knows it. Put a microphone up to the epidermis and I’m convinced you’ll hear a low sizzle.

But there is a tradeoff. At the start and end of the day when the temperatures are actually manageable and being outside isn’t a punishment, the sun is filtered. The earth out here is mostly flat. This is old land. The oldest on the planet. No volcanoes, no tectonic plates or fault lines. It means no earthmoving disasters but it also means soil that has seen its years. Often depleted of nutrients, it has been weathered over millennia, flattened under prehistoric seas, mountains and gaps filled with sediment before the waters receded to leave these vast flat expanses. And so when the sun rises, it does so at sunrise. And when it sets, you see it dip below the horizon.

Here in the dry season, which is nearly over as I write this, there is an added bonus. The sun isn’t just coming through extra layers of atmosphere. It is coming through dust kicked up by any movement on the plains. And it is filtered through the smoke of distant brushfires. The sun setting is something you can watch directly, unblinkingly for appreciable time (if the dust and dryness don’t get to you). And the smoke gives it extra glow.

There are few if any clouds to pick up the colors. But the horizon lights up a vibrant orange. And as it dips below the horizon, the land meeting the sky turns red. Elementary school science comes alive as the band above it turns orange, then yellow, green, blue, and the majority of the sky starts to dip into the deep, deep indigo of night.

I know this magical time is coming soon. As we drive along the road cutting through the two meter tall bushes and trees the sunlight strobes, throwing a bright orange glow cut countless times a second by long shadows. With such low obstacles, the sun is only minutes from its nightly bow. Cue the finale.

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This entry was posted on October 9, 2012 by in Australia, Northern Territory (Darwin).

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