Why do we do it? Why do we sit and watch sunsets? Yes, they’re beautiful--there’s no denying that--and they bring a sense of calm as well. But is that it? Is that why we watch them?
I don’t think so. I think it’s more of an acknowledgement. The day is done, we tell ourselves, and this particular day will never come again. I am alive. I made it through this day. If it has been a difficult day, we sigh with relief and gratitude. Nothing more can be demanded of us today. If it has been a good day, we sigh with longing and bitter sweetness. Nothing more can be given to us today. We store the memory in a secret part of our heart so we can pull it out during the difficult times and remember how we felt.
|Watching as it goes.|
It’s also a farewell, a hail to the sun. It slips below the horizon, and even though we know it will be back tomorrow, we don’t really know that. We tell ourselves that it’s shining somewhere else on the Earth, that somewhere else it’s daytime, but that will never be more than a dream since we can’t be in two places at once. And if it doesn’t come back, we can say to ourselves, I was there, that last time with the sun. I saw him leave. I am a witness.
There’s a sense of finality, of the end. Our smiling selves jump on the boat with Ra, and our sober selves watch and wave goodbye. Then we square our shoulders because it’s time to begin the night. We become a little more watchful, a little more careful. The sun is no longer there to expose the dark corners, and so they creep back again, growing larger by the minute.
But if a sunset should be the last thing we see, if we go to bed and not wake up again as we all must do at some point, we will still have that vision. We will leave this world with hope and jump for real upon Ra’s boat and sail to a place where the sun never sets. And we can still say to ourselves, I was there, that last time with the sun. I saw him leave. I went with him.