Chasing Daylight

I’m a sucker for a good sunset. I don’t do cliché so much, but this is a beautiful exception. Sunrises too, but we’ll get there.

Obviously it’s the aesthetic that draws me in. Oddly, the sun is never visible in any of the best sunsets I take in. No, that ball of fire has always dropped below the edge of time when the real magic begins.

The best are the tangerine and/or pink skies that peek over the western horizon as they slowly succumb to azure, then quickly to eastern darkness.

Even better are sunsets on partly or mostly cloudy days. The burst of color through the tainted clouds standing in stark contrast to the somber darkness of gray and black is sublime.

But my favorite is when the cloud coverage is near complete and the light from the hidden sun has faded in strength. This happened last week. All that was visible was a pool of muted blue visible in a single circular break in the otherwise slate sky.

I have mere minutes until it fades from existence.

But oh, those minutes are precious. Odd as it may seem, those few fleeting moments are the essence of hope. It may be hard to comprehend how something so transient, a moment that will, with absolute certainty, end, can hold hope.

You see, each time this happens, I am reminded of the brevity of this life. Whether it’s in a sunset, a thunderstorm, the passing of a season, the years of a marriage, or the growth of one’s children. It will all end.

I am struggling with how to word this without sounding all Ferris Bueller, but, damn it, if you don’t take in every moment possible, you will be looking at slideshow at your daughter’s wedding one day thinking about how you missed all the good stuff. Not the BIG stuff, the good stuff:

  • the smell of your newborn’s head
  • holding you daughter’s hand and realizing that it might be the last time she lets you
  • the sound of laguhter and splashing of toddlers in a kiddie pool or a puddle
  • the taste of pizza and ice cream on the boradwalk in summer
  • a cold drink on the deck with your love as the day winds down, perhaps watching the sun set

All of these moments and so many more are contained in the universe of each unique sunset. And, pssst, here’s a little secret. If one night the hope just ins’t there, if the responsibilities of life have you down; the sun will return in mere hours.

I told you we’d get to sunrises. Bear with me.

I will never be a successful writer. I will never sing in a band. I will never play professional hockey. I will never be handy around the house or with the car. I will probably never act in a movie.

I’m a teacher. It took me longer than most to get here. I love teaching. Despite all the baggage that comes with the profession, for the 40 minutes five times a day I’m in a room with my students, everything in the world melts away.

There was a time toward the end of my first year when I wasn’t sure I was good enough to teach. It was early spring and I just felt I wasn’t reaching the the kids at all.

Then one morning I was driving in to school. I take Newton/Sparta Road through Andover and part of Newton. There is a portion of this road that is relatively straight and I can see the road stretched out before me until it turns at a rise of trees, the mountain, far back, looms. I am traveling east to west.

On this clear moring, the sun popped up behind me and slowly lit the path laid out before me. It was striking. I took it as a sign. The universe was lighting the path to my destiny. This happens every year in the spring and lasts for about two weeks until the timing sets me and the sun apart.

You see, as there will always be a sunrise after the night; there will be other moments to savor. If you miss dinner with the family because you have to work late, be sure you are there — physically, mentally, emotionally — for the next meal together.

One last thing.

It is often while driving my daughter to karate that these sunset moments occur. I always point them out to her. She rarley shares my enthusiam or my philosophy. For a long time I assumed she didn’t care. After all, she never once pointed out a sunset to me.

However, on the drive home from karate, when the moon is particularly dazzling, she always draws my attention to it. Even though I’ve noticed already, I shut my mouth and absorb those precious, ordinary few minutes in which my little girl describes the moon to me.

“Remember, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.”