I Finally “Get” Sunsets

‘What happened today?’ I wondered as I lay on my small outdoor deck, gazing up through the soft golden light of two bare bulbs, to the low branches of scattered green acacia leaves, and further to the shadowy spikes of coconut palms, themselves shined by a cloud-muffled moon.

My massage music played from just inside the shack, trance-like and sultry, carrying me, as it must carry my clients. I was barely stretching, barely thinking, just gazing. Trees lit in the dark, interlaced, witchy fingers of shadowy and bright branches. That, and moonlight on coconut palms, might be my favorite places to fix my eyes. So I had it all right there.

But that is my view every night. Every night I choose to look, that is. Why tonight was I plastered to the floor with not an urge to move. My body sank heavy into the yoga mat. Heavy in the softest possible way. Waves of music coursed through me, washed over me, and I felt each pulse, potent enough to engage completely, to entertain fully. There was nowhere I’d rather be. Pure, relaxed bliss.

In a mild attempt to record my state for future replication, I ran through my day. Which factors could have led there? Most nights I am wired, wavering between vegging out to try and relax and pumping out projects to try and get shit done. Most nights I can’t quite figure out how to settle down.

Yet there I was. Settled. Smirking slightly at my near hallucinogenic state, trying to remember if any drugs had ever felt so good, or if their bliss was always laced with the misfortune of their side-effects. I thanked my body, and its ability to reach such states on its own. A gift. 

The song changed, the next more sultry than the last. ‘Was it the massage work?’ I wondered. Maybe how I had spaced my day out, how between the hours of my intensely physical, working meditation I came home to rest and reset. That is different than how I usually do it, how I usually push through four straight hours until I’m exhausted and wired at the same time.

Little shifts can have big effects.

‘But no!’ I suddenly remembered. There was something else different. I watched the sunset. That’s right. After my last massage I went to the beach, because I was waiting to hear back from friends before driving home.

I drove to the Balneario and parked my car right at the beach, so I didn’t have to lock it or roll up windows. I grabbed my book and stepped just a few barefoot steps to plop in the sand. 

Usually I eat up in-between moments on my phone, checking bookings, scrolling. Looking down. Or usually I rush home, to start my evening routine or projects, to rush the night onward toward the next day. And the next. Egging myself on to the weekend. Where I promise I will finally allow that state of…suspension.

The sunset was a fluke. Usually I’m doing something as the day fades. Surfing, or running, or swimming. Multi-tasking the last lit moments into some accomplishment I can write on my calendar. But now there are no waves. Seasons are changing. Habits must change too.

I sighed contentedly and looked up from my book. I’d left my phone in the car. In just five minutes my nerves had calmed to a steady, sustained hum. Was it the book then? Reading from paper? The pages carried me away more gently and completely than the screen. Let’s never forget books.

I took a deep breathe and gazed out over the beach. A pot-bellied man shuffled past, his black mask perched in a nest of bushy grey beard.

“Ay, dios!” he murmured, as he caught site of the sun, distorted pale orange and massive at the edge of the ocean. I followed his gaze, surprised almost by the sunset. I didn’t usually just sit and watch. I’d convinced myself that to do that you needed a group of friends, or some wine, or a beer. Sunset watching had always seemed like a social event or a drinking game to me.

But there I sat, no friends, no beer, and watched the egg slip into the boil. Faced to the west, entranced like the other watchers, all in silence, sharing a ritual as ancient as life itself. An unspoken motionless worship. In those moments as light slipped into the sea, we sat connected, all of us, in suspension.

And somewhere in me, in a place that is usually too stressed to notice, a place soothed by sand and sky and paper and silence, something stirred. Some wonder I’ve rarely understood.

I changed one thing. Or a few things. But small things. Little, hidden switches with the power to light up a night. I chose to sit instead of stand, to go out instead of in. I switched a habit. Albeit ignorantly. And it changed my world. 

From my trance on my outdoor deck, I smiled up at the moon-shined palms, connected in a way I’d been craving for…ever maybe. That fleeting fulfillment we too often seek through inadequate means. I remembered the importance of rest and reset, of breathing and reading. I understood the point of sunsets, their purpose and their power. And I resolved to catch as many as I could from there on out.

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