Sunday, August 4, 2013

Entry # 165 - "Sailing Rocks & Green Flashes"

Okay, 'gentle reader' says,  "I’ll bite. So what is a sailing rock and what the heck is a green flash? And why would I care?"
Green Flash

Sailing Rock
Green Flashes and Sailing Rocks are among a number of natural environmental phenomena that seem to defy what we know of the known world. Even experts struggle to explain these oddities of nature. And yet these things have viable scientific explanations. And readers – like our previously mentioned 'gentle reader' are naturally curious about the odd things of the world. Which is to say intelligent readers, like to learn new things when they read. And intelligent writers who explore and connect interesting events or objects organically help readers feel a bit smarter from having read their work. Organic objects that fit the ‘particulars’ can serve also to provide metaphors that add to the complexity of layed subtext in work.   A quick look at any number of online sites will bring up lots of information about both phenomena such as the excerpts quoted below.

“A ‘Green Flash’, also known as the ‘Green Ray’, is a visual phenomenon that occurs at sunset and sometimes at sunrise. For an instance, rays of green light appear as stripes beside the area where the sun has just set or as a green ball of light slightly above the spot where the sun was last seen. In some cultures a green flash is considered good luck, but others see it as a more foreboding omen." Whatever your view, it is a brief, memorable sight, but you have to be quite lucky to see it. And thanks to newer digital camera technology, people are able to photograph this phenomenon.

“Sailing stones, sliding rocks, and moving rocks all refer to a geological phenomenon where rocks move and inscribe long tracks along a smooth valley floor without human or animal intervention. " Sliding rock tracks have been observed in places like Death Valley and other areas in California.

“The stones appear to move only every two or three years and most tracks develop over three or four years. Stones with rough bottoms leave straight striated tracks while those with smooth bottoms tend to wander. Stones sometimes turn over, exposing another edge to the ground and leaving a different track in the stone's wake.”

What possible concern should such phenomena be to any fiction writer?”

Perhaps it’s because, ordinary or extra-ordinary events, objects, or phenomena have the potential to be mined as possible metaphor in fiction and in the real world.

Metaphors help readers make connections between complex layered ideas. It seems to me that the best ones arise organically from a given work. Often it is only after I have written a draft that I recognize the possible threads of some object, event, or phenomena that subtly serves to connect the reader to a new reality. For example – recently I observed that a character in my newest story is on a quest to get a perfect photograph of a sunset ‘green flash’ and much to my surprise, I discovered that this quest serves as a metaphor for other things going on in this story. I did not intend this. I only knew she photographed sunsets.

Another Sliding Rock
About Jan Bowman

Jan Bowman’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others. Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers. Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, her stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, a Pen/O’Henry award and a recent story was a finalist in the 2013 Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction publications in Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at or   visit blog:


  1. Hey, Jan! I saw those rocks in Death Valley way up high in the mountains on a dry lake bed. Incredible. The most sensible explanation I heard was that in winter storms, the rocks get a coating of ice, as does the lake bed. The wind (which no one can get up there in a storm to measure) does the rest. Nonetheless, it is disquieting, in some ways, to walk among them.

  2. Ooops - forgot my name :) Susan

  3. Hi Susan - (which Susan? the id tag seems odd ... do I know you?)

    Yes. Those rocks are interesting and everything I've read does suggest that the ice on the dry lake beds and winter winds move them around.
    Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. Feel feel to like and follow it. I welcome thoughtful responses.