Thank you for not chewing gum.
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Meister Eckhart
I saw an advisory to entrants of a photo contest once, “No sunsets, please.” I guess some contest administrators find them overdone, trite, boring. Yes, I know many pro photogs don’t like them either, same reasons. I never tire of sunsets, nor the human form, nor the human being. None exactly like another. I’ll try to describe one recent sunset experience.
Usually the best sunsets in our neck of heaven’s edge are in February or September when the sun sets in line with the shore. At those times the sun reflects off the wet sand as it goes down giving us a double splash of spectacle. But this time of year the sun sets out to sea.
It was a fog-enhanced, sunset-over-sea at our beautiful Long Beach on New York’s Ile De Longue, or as some know it as…Long Island.
A couple shared the moment hand in hand as the sunset began its birth descending from behind gray clouds; the fog, a soft blanket on the horizon awaited.
A surfer was home from the sea and his passion.
The gulls were gliding like so many Earth angels.
As I write these words I realize how present I was that pre-twilight hour on the beach. Not a thought of the past. But I think back right now of my many days on beaches, days when I took a bus or hitchhiked with my teen friends to the Rockaways with nothing but a rolled up towel underarm. No car, no cooler, no radio, almost no cash. We’d gape at girls and smoke a Lucky from a pack tucked into the sleeve of our white T shirts, shirts that had no words or graphics upon them.
I wore a garrison belt buckle on my lean Levi jeans whose waist size I didn’t know, and didn’t care to know. Life was just fun and sun and the wonder of life’s threshold to sex. The only future I looked forward to was the hot dog at Rockaway’s Playland later in the day or maybe a dime phone call to a beach girl’s number tomorrow. I didn’t care about the future, the future which is THE NOW I find myself in…like this walk on a beach many decades later.
So too, as I walked this foggy beach I didn’t think back to those sinewy days. My rolled up towel was replaced by a Nikon, an appreciation for life…and the wonder I now had was of just BEING. Now I saw all that eluded me then, the breathing beauty before me that I futilley try to capture through my camera lens again and again. It’s an appreciation gained from decades of text books and time clocks and tours of duty; years of loves and losses…incredible ecstasy…and awful pain. Through it all I have gained an eternal gratefulness for what I had previously taken for granted. What I gape at now on a foggy beach is simply the Divine…in full expression. And I breath it in with eyes and ears as well as lungs.
We all appreciate beauty, I’m sure. But when it comes to nature I believe it’s a matter of degree. Sure, I can walk and chew gum at the same time. But if I walk in this splendor I cannot chew gum, it dishonors the moment. The only motion a jaw should have in this moment…is to drop.
Some people walk and allow their minds to chew gum, snapping it in anxiety or blowing bubbles of anticipation. They think of last week’s business agreement or tomorrow’s presentation. They think of a new app or an old flame. Yes, those thoughts creep into all of our minds at times, some are practical thoughts, important to the world of pragmatic survival, but I think this moment is not for those thoughts.
I always feel the shore is the entrance to eternity, where it all began. It touches a primordial place deep in me, a place that hears a call to home perhaps. But with this ethereal mist and softest of light I felt the gates of pearl might even arise from those gentle swells. The rhythmic pulse of the waves were at once the sea’s breath and heartbeat joining with my own. It was like I was never here before, seeing it for the first time, yet, at the same time it was like I was always here. And maybe always will be.
As the horizon began to deepen in color I spotted a sunset stroller taking a selfie of herself and her faithful companion; maybe to share in a text, or to take home for revisit to this magic moment.
I took a shot of her from afar to perhaps assist in her task. As she got up to continue on, I called out to her. At first she seemed apprehensive as I called out, “Miss?” on the lonely beach. But as I approached and told her of what I had done she smiled and agreed to a closer shot.
As the sun descended and the color further deepened, the gulls started to gather and circle for their nocturnal nesting place. The sun now fully descended from the gray clouds blazed through the haze.
When it fell behind the horizon the amber turned to orange and the salt air became still. The gulls rustled their feathers as they settled in.
As I shot the last rays of sun a second lady came along. We spoke of the beauty and awe before us. I told her about my photo of the lady and her dog and that I would send photos to the owner. In just five to ten minutes we spoke of sunsets and life and beauty and good turns of karma going round and round. Each act tending to make the world just a tiny bit better.
I started to tell her about Cheryl and her photo work for neighbors but she smiled with raised eyebrows of recognition. She said she knew about Cheryl through a friend and neighbor. Cheryl had taken photos of her friend’s house last year and left prints in the mailbox. We chatted a bit more, this lady by the sea and me. My camera was at my chest where it always is when not at my eye but that didn’t stop her from giving me a hug before she left. It was a hug of namaste, an acknowledgement of the spirit in one to the other.
As I walked home, the sun was well under the horizon and the sky turned pink again in the twilight. Pink, such hopeful color. Tomorrow will need some pink…I think.