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October 4, 2020

Is it too much to say that all things are linked, all experiences somehow tied together?   That events and circumstances seemingly unconnected are in fact inextricably linked, that there is no such thing as unintended coincidence?

Sunsets happen every single day, in every single place on the planet.  Only some are visible.  Some horizons are hidden behind mountains and city skylines, some beyond low-lying layers of cloud or the rim of the earth in the polar distance.  There is never a day or a place that they don’t happen, only days and places where we cannot see them.

The shores of western seas are the best places to observe the splitting of the sun into diminishing halves as it slowly sinks into the water, or more technically beneath the level horizon.  The astronomy of the situation determines that the visible sun sets at a farthest north on the 21st day of December every year, dividing the shortest day from the longest night.  And likewise, the summer solstice, that farthest-south track of the setting sun, divides the longest day from the shortest night.

And twice each year, that same track passes the place where the lengths of day and night are equal, the equinoxes, vernal and autumnal.  These are days of some significance, always.  Some ancient civilizations marked these equinoxes with stone monuments set to align that exact line of shadow, from horizon to near stone to far stone.  One has to be present, beside these lines of stone, along this line of light, on these particular days, at that moment when the sun makes that final setting.

Otherwise, these are just stones in a line, a line with no obvious significance.

At Point Arena lighthouse on the coast of California, a stone wall has been built, vertical slabs of stone set parallel to each other, in a line.  A fence—not quite a wall.  Its construction fulfills an apparent need to mark a property line running due east and west, a boundary to a park, an implacable barrier to vehicular traffic.  That much is obvious.

The wall has a Celtic beauty all its own, worthy of closer investigation into the details of its construction.  Flat labs of stone perhaps 4” thick, quarried not far away, resemble the native rock just at the waterline at the foot of the bluff below, sometimes covered by the tide and surging waves, and sometimes revealed.  They stand on end like huge slices of brown bread in a row, at varying 4’ heights with 4” stone spacers between them.  Viewed from either side, the wall has the airy lightness of a California grapestake fence.  At intervals, a placement of much more substantial stones will supply the structural stability that thin slabs alone will not maintain over eons. 

Their deeper significance can only be seen in that rare confluence of the equinox come only twice in a year, and a horizon come clear enough to divide the setting sun into its equal halves, and a curious mind directs the eye to look down that line at sunset, to observe at that very moment the astronomical calendar in all its primitive, elemental glory.

Viewed from the wall’s eastern end, sighting along the pointed tops of the slabs, it becomes clear they are erected in a dead-straight line pointing out to the sea, toward a horizon only intermittently visible in the alternating fogs of this cold and wind-driven coastline.

Equinox, Pt. Arena 9.21.20

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