Sunrise, Sunset

I have spent all of my life on the coasts; California through the 1980s, and the Atlantic coast since then. Moving from one coast to another, I immediately made two observations. One, we seem to have an innate sense of where the ocean is. When I moved from L.A. to New York, I kept getting north/south and east/west mixed up. After twenty-plus years, I’ve finally straightened that out, but it all came rushing back on this trip when I drove from the North Carolina Outer Banks to Santa Cruz, California. To go from having the ocean on the east to having it on the west was very disorienting.

My other observation is that sunrises and sunsets are very different. On the west coast, sunrise is pretty fast. It goes from dark, to dawn, to day rather quickly. But, as the sun sets in the west, it also reflects off the Pacific Ocean and back into the sky, so that long after the sun has disappeared over the horizon, the sky stays light and then slowly dims. On the east coast, the effect is the reverse: the sky begins brightening long before we ever see the sun, reflecting off the Atlantic and into the sky in advance of sunrise.

I spent yesterday driving from Colorado to Kansas, and observed a wholly different effect. Here, in the high plains, you can practically see the day/night terminus. As I drove east, I could see and the sun set behind me, the western horizon awash in dramatic layers of red and orange. And before me, I stared into darkness as night approached from the east. It was a very spooky effect that, I realize, most of the country is familiar with, but to a boy from the coasts, it looked like I was driving into the end of the world.