Are you “wowed” when you watch a sunset?

Jennie and I watched the sunset last evening.

We sat on a familiar bench and gazed across Monterey Bay, marveling at the Santa Lucia Mountains silhouetted against the soft purplish light of a dying day.

Just before the sun dipped into the western horizon, a golden aperture appeared near the mouth of the Pajaro River, a bright orange reflection from a glass window, angled just right as to shine brightly into our eyes. The occurrence brought to mind the green light that appears in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby—a symbol for riches, fame, and love that eludes Jay, the main character.
Those who have read Five Hundred Moons will encounter a golden light, much like the one Jennie and I saw yesterday. It is the reflection from the Spanish Presidio in Monterey that mystifies the Ohlone characters living on the Santa Cruz side of the bay. It’s a symbol of sorts, too, representing the drastic changes coming from across the water that will lead to the genocide of the indigenous culture. The gypsy soldier, Graile, points out that in the years to come the entire bay will be ringed with golden lights, the reflections of so many windows from so many buildings—a harbinger of things to come; a prophecy that has come true today. 
I like to come across symbolism, imagery, and metaphors when I read a novel. I also like subtle references to works of literature. I’m surprised that no one who has read Five Hundred Moons has commented on the last paragraph of my book. The sentence, “Small flames array themselves on a charred black bough, dancing away their heat and offering warmth to the cuddled pair,” is  a reference to Ezra Pound’s well-known imagist poem, “In a Station of the Metro,” a two-line verse that reads,

The apparition of these faces in the crowd
Petals on a wet, black bough

Are you “wowed” when you watch a sunset?

Just as the flickering small flames are contrasted with the black bough, the faces in the metro crowd are contrasted with flower petals on a similar blak bough. To me, both phrases create a vivid image for the reader. I do enjoy the simplicity of Mr. Pound’s poems, as well as others who write in precise, economic ways—haiku comes to mind. 

The closing line in Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea reads, “The old man wadreaming about the lions.”

The final passage in Five Hundred Moons reads similarly, “He wonders if other men dream of lions.

Are you “wowed” when you watch a sunset?

It’s an obvious homage to Hemingway, but it also may bring to light some correlation between the two main characters. Santiago, the Cuban fisherman, and Charquin, the Quiroste chief—they are both old, they long for the youthful vigor they once possessed and they both see that the old ways have been displaced by forces that foretell loss, darkness and ignorance.

Are you “wowed” when you watch a sunset?

Perhaps this early evening Jennie and I will return to the bench above the Cove and look again toward the mountains across the bay, hoping to spy more golden windows.

Herewith is a poem I wrote about these points of light as seen from a different perspective.

My friend pointed to the east,
Where the hills rise from the bay,
Vectored rays of the setting sun
Aglow with the campfires
Of golden windows.
Ephemeral openings
Spotted on the upland slopes,
Random entrances to illumined caves
Their shafts bearing access
To a secret world within.
Maybe underground cities 
Built of minerals and gems,
The inhabitants sustained
By the rich invading light.
Or maybe there is opportunity
For something to leave the earth,
Something locked deep inside,
Deep inside the hills,
Looking for a way out,
A gate into the clouds,
An opening of heaven.

“Golden Windows” by Buzz Anderson, © 2023. All rights reserved.
Photos by Buzz and Jennie Anderson, © 2023.

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