Complain we must about the rain, the clouds, the odd weather that tinkers with our plans for a picnic, wedding, campfire and fishing. The fact remains that the clouds are good for sunsets, and sunsets are good for the heart.
A sunset well executed can stop you in your tracks, make you want to pull over and point the cell phone toward the horizon in hopes of capturing sol’s soul. Even better if you happen to be at the beach. He slips behind the deck of dark clouds and thrusts the beach into premature dusk. Then, like the bride emerging from shadows and marching down the aisle, the solar ball dashes through a break in the deck and dazzles with brilliant beauty, rays and all.
Sun for light, sand for texture, water for waves and clouds for scale. We love a sunset over the city or countryside, but adore and romanticize it when day collapses on the beach, exhausted, panting, exhaling orange and red like a marathon runner gasping at the finish line as the crowd cheers the time warrior for besting the record. So it is against the thunder of applause that the sun as it sets with fingers tapping, shutters clicking, jpgs writing, lips touching …
Wind is the unseen ingredient in all this drama. It moves the clouds in place like stagehands rolling backgrounds between acts. It stirs the water into unpredictable contortions that roll and squirm and roar like tortured molecules. If you look carefully, you will see thin strands of glass pulled from the droplets; the strands last but a fraction of a second and then dissipate into froth.
All of this occurs because we are spinning and don’t even know it, because hot and cold air we can only feel are clashing and oddly enough the ball that casts light on the whole process determines what is night and what is day. It takes a bit of imagination to believe that there is significance to any of it other than another day is over, but poets find metaphor aplenty in the seeming perpetual motion of waves, mystery of sunset and landscape’s plunge into darkness.
We are not ancients pondering these enigmas, for our generation has gone far above the waves and clouds to discover the mechanism by which these things occur and developed formulae that succinctly reduce poetry and mystery to predictable events. We state to the minute when the light will depart from our gaze, but we cannot predict if the passing will be pleasant, prosaic, stunning or stupefying. Such is death. These things are up to the wind, clouds and waves. Heaven can shed its light upon Earth, but Earth ultimately decides if molten sunlight and molten water will tango, sit out the dance or even bother to play a tune. Some nights, the best we can hope for is a long sigh.
The strange thing amid all this is that when it is noon somewhere and midnight somewhere else, it is sunset yet some other place. And if I stare at a sunset in Geneva there is a throng to the east placing heads upon pillows in fledgling darkness, while those to my west are walking Pacific beaches in hope of seeing what I have already consumed. Strange thing the way stuff happens on this sphere. What if the world were really flat? Then would all of us see the same sunset at the same time, or would sunset even exist? Would sun have only two states, like a simple switch, or be more complex, like a dimmer control?
Rhetorical considerations aside, closer to home, there is an ex-lover standing next to a new love on a distant beach, holding hands, looking at the same sunset by which the two of you once swooned and loved. Some 1,500 sunsets later all of that love has come unspun and now winds itself about another heart. It is a mystery, to be sure, how things as consistent as the sun and its setting can exist for eons and faithfully perform their duties, but the human heart will have nothing to do with all that, as if it operates in a different universe. It would serve itself well to be more reliable like the sun and less fickle than the sunset, dependent upon externals like clouds, waves and wind. But that is beyond its nature, and there is no more use arguing for a predictable heart than for a predictable wave. It will crash as and where it wants and destroy and erode as it sees fit. The sun sets and that is that, accept the loss and get on with life, as we trust the sun will do, come the sunrise.
But that is whole other event.