I deliver our daughter to church early, as our youth choir is the primary choir for the earliest service. I like to take the half hour before the service begins to stroll around the block. I always confirm that Pikes Peak is still there, too. And some days I notice small things. Today it was a very faint reflection off something on the summit of the peak.
It doesn't happen all that often, but I have realized that it happens most often around the autumnal equinox, the period between late summer and early fall when the geometry of the sunrise and my typical location on these mornings allows for the morning light to stream all the way from the Sun to something shiny on the top of the peak and back to me.* It always gets my attention. I strikes me as wondrous that so many odd little factors have to come together in just the proper way to view the simple brief spectacle of a bright reflection off the peak summit.
Some of the factors are pretty simple things. The fact that it's not cloudy. The fact that the windows are clean enough to be shiny. But the fact that it happens near the start of autumn points to the scale of the geometry involved. And that scale is enormous. Solar system-sized, in fact.
As the Earth moves about its orbit, the tilt of its axis relative to the Sun produces the seasons. It also causes the location of the sunrise to change. Half the time it rises north of east. The other half, south of east. Only around the equinoxes does it actually rise very close to the true direction of east. Somewhere in that process it rises in just the right place that its light will strike a shiny surface on the top of Pikes Peak and be reflected down to the central part of town. It wouldn't take but minute changes in the placement of any of the participating components to prevent it from happening. So every time I see that reflection I'm caught up thinking of the scale of our world and the worlds beyond it, of the complexity of it all. Mostly I'm grateful for being a part of it all, and for being fortunate enough to be able to contemplate that.
* Okay fellow astro-nerds, I get that it must also occur near the vernal equinox, too. But for whatever reason, I don't notice it as much then.