Over the course of the summer, my mother and I have been heading out to a park near our house to watch the sunset. We have done this many times over the years, but I feel that this year is the first year that I have truly appreciated this activity. I have begun to feel strangely comforted by the sight of the big yellow orb slowly turning to orange and then a shimmering red as it sinks beneath the water. The colors are mesmerizing to me and always grab my attention.
Until this summer, I did not care much for sunsets, mostly because of the peculiar reactions I have whenever I look at the sun. My eyes are very sensitive to sunlight, and most of the time I find looking at the sun to be very overwhelming and distracting. The sun has caused me to experience a sensory overload many times. It floods my eyes and causes me to look in every other direction but straight at it. I try to avoid looking at it most of the time so I can keep my vision clear. I will try just about anything to block the sun out of my vision, whether it be turning down the brim of my baseball cap in the sun’s direction, pulling down blinds or shutting curtains on windows, or wearing sunglasses. All of these methods work fairly well, but if the sun moves in a different direction in which they cannot block it, their effectiveness is greatly reduced.
Consequently, when I am watching sunsets, I tend to take quick glimpses, rather than watch the process all the way through. The part of the sunset that I like best, when the sun begins to sink below the horizon and is not staring me directly in the face, does not usually occur for a while after we arrive, so I tend to read a book to pass the time. Looking at the book gives me the opportunity to rest my eyes after looking at the sun for a bit; the book’s pages provide a muted counterpoint to the glaring rays. When the sun hits the horizon, I feel immense relief because it is not causing irritating glare anymore. Then, I am free to enjoy the sun sinking lower and lower until it disappears. There is no other sight on earth quite like it to me.
Until recently, however, I did not think of sunsets in a nostalgic or sentimental manner. Often on sunset-watching trips, my mother and I travel with other members of my extended family, usually my aunts. When we get to the spot where we normally watch the sun go down, they commence into chatting with each other about other sunsets they have seen during their lifetimes as well as other topics. As I listened to them talking each time we were together, I found it fascinating that my family would place such emotional weight on something as routine and common as a sunset.
After thinking about it for many weeks, though, I have developed a peculiar sensation. It is a desire to appreciate nature more whenever I have the opportunity. This way of thinking still startles me because I usually like to stay inside the house. It is so different from the way I usually think, but I am getting used to it.
During a recent sunset-watching trip, I saw something else which reminded me of all of the different forms of life which go on around me but which I do not usually notice. I was sitting on a bench, taking in the park and all of the people who had gathered to watch the sunset. The only thing ruining this picturesque scene was a small bird crying which became noticeably louder as the minutes progressed. At first, I tried to ignore it, but the bird just wouldn’t let up, so I asked my mom to see why the creature was putting up such a fuss. She determined that the pestering noise was coming from behind an old rotten log. When she looked behind the log, she reported that it was a bird guarding some broken eggs. There was the bird, glancing down at its eggs to make sure they were safe and sound, then turning its head up toward any nearby passers-by and screeching at them in warning not to interfere with her children. I both admired her tenacity in defending herself and her nest from intruders, but I also pitied her lack of awareness of her children’s fate. It left quite an impact on me to know that she would protect her children to the very end. It was one of the most moving events that I have personally witnessed in nature. The sunset that night was especially beautiful.
Sunsets are a common event in my life, but now I truly appreciate them. I am continually amazed by how beautiful, moving, and meaningful each one is to me. I cannot believe that it was only a short while ago that I would not have even let them cross my mind. They have definitely become worth the watch for me, and I hope I will be able to see and enjoy many more sunsets during my lifetime.