I don’t have a clear view of sunsets from my house but on mid-summer evenings I can see a faint rosy glow, the edge of the sunset, through the evergreens at the back of the yard. Sometimes that faint glow draws me out of the house and down the block to a field where I can watch the full display across the valley.
My mother loved sunsets. She kept a journal, beginning in 1966; she would have been in her late 50s. She wrote in it sporadically, an entry or two and then a gap of years before another entry. The last entry was dated 1976. She wrote several times about the sunsets she could see from the kitchen window. In the first entry, written on a January afternoon, she describes a sunset that was a delicate rose in color with black tracing of tree branches. She goes on to say how frustrating it is that my father and I didn’t see this beauty: “I say, ‘Look at the sunset–it’s fabulous.’ They say ‘yes very nice’ and they don’t really see. It’s so beautiful it hurts.”
And she’s right. As a teen ager I didn’t see the sunsets–or at least I didn’t see what she saw–the painful beauty of them.
I wrote about sunsets in my own journal once a few years ago. I’d had a string of conversations with friends who were dealing with illnesses of various kinds. I wrote about driving along the river one winter afternoon. The sun was setting behind the hills across the river and it took my breath away–the hills, the scarlet sky, the reflection in the river. I wrote that I wanted to give this sunset to my friends as an antidote, a balm, something to hold onto when all else seemed to be giving way. The redemptive power of sunsets.
Maybe that’s what my mother saw in sunsets, those many years ago. I wish I could come up behind her, circle my arms around her waist where she stands at the sink, rest my chin on her shoulder and see the sunset along with her. Yes, it’s gorgeous I’d say.
Previously published at Write on Harlow
About the Author
Lynn Bechtel is a writer, editor, gardener, reader, walker of woodsy paths, and novice meditator. She grew up in Ohio but has lived in New England for most of her adult life. She writes essays and short stories.