Our vacation rental house was across the street from the sound, that finger of water between barrier islands and the mainland. The ad had mentioned the fineness of the sunset over the sound, so I watched the sun go down twice in two days. (And I know there’s a movie called Eat the Sun, where people stare at the sun every day, hoping to find more health and vitality and spend less on food, so I tried not to worry too much about actually looking at the sun. It didn’t seem to do me any damage.)
The first day, there were no clouds until the very end. Which meant it was pretty boring, as sunsets go. The ball sank down, sending a golden trail across the water, and then was swallowed up by dark, low-lying clouds.
No extra colors, no drama. I mean, yay for the symbolism for the end of a day and the soothing sound of gently splashing water, but this sunset wouldn’t be something to write home about.
The next evening, though, the sunset was far more dramatic. Clouds obscured the sun as it set, but only briefly — then it reappeared. It was like an advance sunset, immediately followed by a sunrise in reverse, before the real sunset occurred.
The clouds enhanced every part of the sunset. They refracted the light, glowing in the orange, yellow, and pink that are both familiar and precious to sunset watchers, and remarkably elusive for smartphone cameras.
My sister and I kept saying, “Children, look!” And the children would glance at the sun, then go back to digging in the sand, or running between cousins, or whatever they felt was more important than simply watching this particular display.
And that’s fine, too. There is time enough for them to come to appreciate the small changes and subtle adjustments of the sunset.
I’ve kept thinking about those two days. It’s easy, in some ways, to choose to see a sunset a second time, even from the same place, because I know enough about weather patterns, and have had enough experience with past sunsets, to know that each night is different. Just because Monday night seemed a little lackluster, doesn’t mean that Tuesday night will be the same.
I saw the wonder and mystery of the second sunset because I didn’t give up after the first day. I just needed to show up.
As I’m struggling to get back into the rhythm of normal life, it’s helpful to tell myself that there are good things that await me, just by showing up for my children. That each new day is a new opportunity to see something new.
That reading practice today is not the same as last time.
And that I can look forward to similar tasks, because even similar tasks aren’t ever identical.
I will try to keep this in mind. Maybe I could call it the gift of multiple sunsets.