Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Atomsph* (for Atmosph*)

I was filling in at the library on a dismal Saturday afternoon recently when I glanced out the dirt-streaked window to catch some streaks of another sort entirely. What Hi and Lois's baby Trixie would surely have greeted as friends were pouring forth from between long dark cracks in the cloud cover. "Look at that!" beamed my coworker. "Crepuscular rays!" Although it sounds a little bit like an alarming blood disease diagnosis (the word actually means "twilight"), that note is more than made up for by the array of arresting nicknames that have been accorded this phenomenon. Names like "backstays of the sun" (since they resemble the stays that support the mast of a ship); "Ropes of Maui" (from a folk tale in which ropes are attached to the sun to make the day last longer); and "Sun drawing water" (reflecting an ancient Greek belief that sunbeams drew water into the sky, which is really a rather nice description of evaporation.) Oftentimes, they're called things like "Fingers of God," "Jesus Rays," "Jacob's Ladder," or "Buddha Rays." As well as "cloud breaks," "shafts of light," "sunbursts," etc. There are a lot of stunning photos out there depicting this not-uncommon atmospheric condition, but I couldn't resist this one, which perhaps more directly evokes the idea that these heavenly-looking sunbeams are truly gifts from God. (There are "Devil Rays" also, but that only refers to the "anticrepuscular" kind.) God, or those of us crafted imperfectly in Her image, appears to have given us sixteen cases of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 181 in WorldCat.

(Ochsenfurt, Katholische Stadtpfarrkirche St. Andreas, Innenansicht mit durch die weihrauchgesättigte Luft einfallendem Licht*, November 2011, from Wikimedia Commons.)

*Google translates this to "Ochsenfurt, Catholic Parish Church of St. Andrew, interior with incident through the incense saturated air light"—which may be as good a way of putting it as any!

Carol Reid

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