It’s not as if there haven’t been enough sunset stories published over the years. Shit, their numbers probably run in the tens of millions. Nevertheless, I’m unashamedly adding to the mega-glut right now. And why not? Sunsets can be spellbinding. We watch primo ones quietly, maybe even reverentially, giving them the respect that they deserve.
From my experience, clouds, more than anything, are what make or break sunsets. Our friend the Sun, when setting, needs clouds to absorb, reflect and refract its light. To make things interesting, in other words. But not too many clouds, as the Sun ain’t got a chance when sheets of clouds abound. As for cloudless skies, well, they are canvases upon which sunsets do not rise above the meh level. When the white-hot fire ball heads downward on a cloudless day, the color and pattern possibilities for the upcoming sunset are limited.
And then there’s location. Needless to say, it counts for plenty when it comes to sunsets. If you’re in the middle of Manhattan, for instance, where tall buildings thrive, you are barely going to be able to see sunsets, whatever their quality, let alone appreciate them. On the other hand, if Cape Cod Bay is nearby, as it was recently for me and my wife Sandy, you’re f*cking golden.
Cape Cod Bay, enormous and fed by the Atlantic Ocean, abuts the northern coast of Cape Cod, a lengthy peninsula that’s part of Massachusetts, USA. We were on the Cape, vacationing our asses off, for a two-and-a-half week stretch that ran from mid-October to early November. During the trip, among a host of activities, we walked and hung out on four of the numerous public beaches along the bay. Over the years we’ve been on quite a few of the Cape’s other bayside beaches too, and have yet to be disappointed. The sands are clean, and masses of seagrasses are plentiful in many sections close to shore. And the waters themselves are inspiring, partly because of their vastness. Staring out at the bay, to me, sometimes seems like staring into infinity.
Our vantage point for the first of the two great sunsets we saw on the Cape this year was First Encounter Beach, in the township of Eastham. It’s one of my favorite Cape Cod Bay beaches, possibly my top pick, though the competition is stiff. There we were on a comfortable mid-afternoon, admiring our kite as it did its carefree thing way overhead. The bay’s waters had receded profoundly, leaving many acres of mudflats in their wake. Great beauty surrounded us, and we knew it.
After reeling in the kite, we took a stroll upon the sands. Then we made our way back to our car, contemplating dinner. But it wasn’t dinnertime just yet, and sunset was scheduled to take place in about 20 minutes. So, we decided to stay, a wise decision, for we soon witnessed a sunset that we are unlikely to forget. At its beginning, and made possible by well-positioned clouds, bands and assorted streaks of oranges, golds and greys filled the western sky’s lower regions prodigiously. The greys took a back seat after a while, allowing the brighter colors to go wild. The darkening sky, at that point, was absolutely aflame. What a sight!
The second excellent sunset arrived a week and a half later at the bayside swath of territory known as Corn Hill Beach. It’s located in the township of Truro, which is far out on the Cape and, unlike Cape Cod’s 14 other townships, totally rural.
I’ve been a big fan of Corn Hill Beach since discovering it around 15 years ago. Like First Encounter Beach, it faces due west, perfect for sunset-watching. What’s more, the views from Corn Hill Beach, when you look seaward, are wide and unobstructed. A wonderful place.
Both Sandy and I agree that, as far as we can remember, we’ve never seen a sunset such as the one at Corn Hill Beach. The sunset appeared to be foggy and misty, despite the fact that nowhere else, in any direction, was fog or mist visible. Light on its feet, the sunset was the ideal partner for the bay waters moving gently beneath it.
We absorbed the sunset and its surroundings for 20 minutes, then returned, a bit downcast, to Corn Hill Beach’s parking lot. For we were fully aware of what we’d be losing soon. The natural world in all its glory is readily available on Cape Cod. Alas, back home in the grossly overdeveloped suburbs of Philadelphia, where we’d be in 48 hours, such is not even remotely the case.