As drove home from work on Wednesday, the fog was so thick that I could look directly at the sun: no sunglasses needed. The massive red disk was just starting to dip into the mountains. If I had left for work five minutes later, I would have missed it. It looked spectacularly huge when it slipped right behind the Chevron refinery. It became part of the refinery and snapped out of the distance into the foreground. The sun looked like it was part of the refinery process, like some huge, red carefully controlled burn.
A child could have drawn this sun. It was perfectly round. There were none of those pesky sun beams flying off it, blinding me. It was just a huge crimson circle in the sky. I half expected to see a smiley face to appear on it. I have been complaining about this fog, but I had forgotten how beautiful it can be. I had forgotten how it can obscure the sun enough to give me the opportunity to look straight at it.
The first time I remember being able to look straight at the sun, I must have been about six years old. It was after I went to first grade, but it was before my grandma moved to Billings. I was out in the backyard of her home on Windsor Street. Attached to her back porch was a trellis and there were large and orange honeysuckle blooms clinging to it. It was a hot evening and I was surprised that I could actually hear the wings of the hummingbirds, feeding on the honeysuckle.
I was just sitting in the backyard listening to the insect noises of the hummingbirds, when I noticed the sun. There were clouds obscuring it on the horizon, so I could look straight at the sun. I remembered a biblical story in which someone was blinded by the sun. I had accepted that story literally, not realizing that the sun can “get in your eyes.” I stared at the sun, trying to see if it would make me blind. It made a round burn mark that floated in my line of sight. I didn’t really consider that blindness. I stared at the sun until it went behind the Oquirrh mountains.
After it was gone, I ran inside to tell my mom and grandma what had happened. “I stared right at the sun and it didn’t blind me.” My mom dismissed what I said, “You couldn’t have stared directly at the sun. It would blind you.” I argued with her for about five minutes and I regretted that I hadn’t brought her outside to see the sun sink. She probably doesn’t remember that day.
Many times I have seen the sun look like this. It’s usually on a foggy day like Wednesday, but I have looked directly at that yellow disk through thin clouds. Sunsets, sunrises and daytime I have observed this phenomenon. It’s like I feel like I need to keep looking to prove to myself that it really happened because someone didn’t believe me once.