Into the Sunsets

Do we really have some of the most dramatic dusks around? Locals say yes — and science agrees.

Text by Bill Newcott
From the July 2018 issue

Entangled in the cables of the Indian River Inlet Bridge, the setting sun slips toward the horizon beyond Rehoboth Bay.

It’s early spring and nearly 50 degrees out, but the wind whipping from the Atlantic makes the air feel a lot colder than that. The tidal gush pouring through the inlet from the sea seems intent on extinguishing the remaining warmth of that sinking orange ball.

No other humans are in sight, so I share this deepening spectacle with a lineup of gulls. They stand at attention on the jetty rocks, facing down the sun with an intensity they usually reserve for tourists cradling bags of Thrasher’s fries.

Along the horizon, a dark line of low clouds shifts to deep purple as the sun dips behind it. Almost imperceptibly, the sky above me morphs to royal blue. Between those cool blankets of color a ribbon of fire flashes from north to south, flaring bright yellow, then dimming to soft red.
For my feathered companions, the show is over. They flap away to wherever gulls spend the night. But I sense something coming; an encore reserved for the patient observer.

And here it is: Above me, a lacy curtain of high clouds explodes in a blush of rosy red that grows to encompass much of the sky. Then, like a supernova expending itself, the crimson stain retreats, and the sky goes dark.

It is night.

If you happen to have a lot of friends in southern Delaware, you well know that locals tend to rave about their sunsets. I’m pretty sure Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has got the actual data lurking someplace, but it’s my casual observation that social media sees more per-capita sunset postings from this area than just about anywhere else.

I’m guilty of this myself. It’s not like we need to pull out easels and oil paints to capture sunsets, J.M.W. Turner-like — our palettes are in our pockets, and the iPhone has a sneaky way of making a sunset’s reds that much redder and its clouds that much swirlier. A touch of the screen and that glorious image is delivered into the hands of all our friends (as well as our “friends”), along with a breathless account to the effect that “Delaware has the BEST SUNSETS ANYWHERE!!!”

Our more far-flung acquaintances, bless their little hearts, respond with pale, washed-out sunset images of their own. We acknowledge them with generous “likes” and “loves,” but privately we shake our heads, pitying those whose sunsets fade in a dull Fuji Film snapshot while we bask in the widescreen glory of nightly Super Panavision Technicolor.

* * *

To Read This Full Story:

Buy this issue online

Buy the current issue on a newsstand