The Sky, the Sky!

August 1, 2013

Waiting for sunset at Golden Gardens

Waiting for sunset at Golden Gardens

The sunset sky over Elliott Bay, Seattle

The sunset sky over Elliott Bay, Seattle

Another rare, cloudless evening watching the sun set over Elliott Bay in Seattle.  We enjoyed a picnic supper at Golden Gardens and then stayed at the beach until the sun went down.  A perfect summer day.

” . . . the vastness of the sky will naturally lead the mind to contemplate infinities; it is wholly apt to associate the sky with expansiveness of the spirit, with joy and freedom and holiness.”
— Anthony Esolen, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child



“We have become accustomed to the summer.  It has acquired a certain eternity.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Journals, July 5, 1852

Sunset over Elliott Bay from the beach at Golden Gardens

Seattle has just experienced its driest August on record, and as of today, we’ve had 46 consecutive days without rain.  We still have a way to go to match or beat the standing record — a 51-day dry stretch.

But what a summer!  Weather expert Cliff Mass comments on the psychological discomfort we are feeling due to the seemingly endless sunny days: “Seattle residents unaccustomed to a record-breaking stretch of sun and warmth are reacting with guilt, anxiety, and discomfort. I cannot count the number of emails I have received by folks asking when the accustomed clouds and rain will return.”

Too much of a good thing, I guess.




Watching the sunset at Golden Gardens on Puget Sound

Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  Sunrise was at 5:11 a.m. in Seattle, and sunset is at 9:11 p.m. this evening.

My body must be attuned to the natural day — I’ve been waking up early, even when the sky is gray with cloud cover.  But I would like to be more attentive to the sunsets in my life.  Typically I am indoors at the close of day, under artificial lights, and I rarely even look out the window to watch the sun set.  I believe I am missing something important by not taking a few minutes to acknowledge the fading of the light from my day.

I was reminded of this recently when I read the following passage from Wildwood:  A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin:  “Twilight, the gradual softening of the day into darkness, is surely the gentlest, most natural way to prepare for sleep.  And yet it is a pleasure we deny ourselves with the switch on the bedside lamp.  Even the guttering of a candle or the afterglow of a paraffin lantern is less abrupt.  A couple of generations ago most country people went to bed when it was dark, at least in summertime.  And so we miss the time of darkling shades in which our pupils can dilate by slow degrees and dreams drift in as, wide-eyed, we enter the rook-black night.”

I just finished reading another great book, Findings: Essays on the Natural and Unnatural World by Kathleen Jamie, and her first essay speaks about the solace of darkness:  “Pity the dark:  we’re so concerned to overcome and banish it, it’s crammed full of all that’s devilish, like some grim cupboard under the stair.  But dark is good.  We are conceived and carried in the darkness . . .”  In as much as culture and literature almost universally associate darkness with death, Jamie says, “We have not banished death, but we have banished the dark.”

But today is the summer solstice, and the Universe itself has banished the dark.  I welcome the long summer days but I will take care to ease into twilight and night with equal anticipation and awareness.