I have seen more sunsets over the Pacific this year than I had seen in my entire life until this point.
Yes, the sun sets on the East Coast too, but it’s not the same. There’s nothing like watching the sun sink down into the ocean and seeing the sky painted in an array of colors.
In my time in Panama earlier this year, and in the past six months living in Southern California, I’ve tried to get myself to the ocean for sunset whenever possible.
Beyond the Painted Sky
Sunset is not only about observing the beauty in the sky. It’s about being by the ocean and enjoying that quiet time as the sun goes down. Noticing the stillness in the air as the sun fades. Noticing how, when the sun disappears below the horizon, everything else seems to settle as well.
There’s a pause. A beat. A slowing down.
It’s a perceptible shift in the energy. A moment of kindness and gentleness.
It’s so easy to forget, in a 24/7 world, that there is a time to start and a time to end.
This is what sunset gives me. A signal of a shift in the day. An opportunity to attune to the rhythm of nature.
Sunset is the “Fall” in the cycle of the day: a time to pause, reflect, and harvest the fruits of the day. A lead-in to the Sabbath time of deeper rest.
As the sun sinks below the horizon, it reminds us that everything in nature takes a rest.
The sun doesn’t stay high in the sky shining it’s light 24/7, and we don’t have to either. It’s ok to disappear for a while behind the clouds or beneath the horizon line. In fact, it’s not only ok. It’s necessary.
In Jewish tradition, the day begins the prior evening, at sundown. One lesson we can take from this is that before we can use our light to guide others, we must go within first: recede and withhold our light while we prepare.
We don’t always have to be the guiding light for others. When we go within, we allow other lights to have their moment.
About Those Colors
Turning back to those colors and the painted sky.
It occurs to me that perhaps this is the reason why nature creates this colorful painting on the sky.
Everything in nature serves a purpose, even the colors. Think about how certain animals have colors that camouflage them, to protect against predators.
Perhaps one purpose for the colors we see at sunset is to force this pause. Whether you’re by the beach or walking down the street, it’s hard to stay in the trance of your day when the colors appear in the sky. Even if you’re not looking directly at the sky, the light changes. You can just tell when you’re in the golden hour.
Also, perhaps the colors are intended to convey to us that, just as there is beauty in shining your light to the world, there is also beauty in bringing your light within, in receding beneath the horizon for a while to recharge your light.
There’s no shame in dipping below the horizon for a time. Even as you recede, you are still shining your light; you are simply directing your energy to a different place.
Sunsets. So much we can learn from them.