Columnist George Will once wrote that "memories are flowers in our winter." As we age, we seem to escape to our earlier memories with greater clarity. Perhaps we yearn to return? To a simpler time, before careers and responsibilities and the many trappings of adult life.
I had the privilege of growing up in the golden hills of Los Gatos, Northern California. It was before the dot com era, when downtown was less congested with BMW's and the impatient rhythms of the nouveau riche. Back then, Ron the hotdog man would peddle his portable stand around town. We'd buy french bread from the local bakery that my grandmother frequented. Dad did all his banking and paid for his gas inside buildings. It was before ATM's and such.
I'm cautious not to overly romanticize the past. The special effects of the first Star Wars movie was a marvel to us. Now it looks so outdated and second rate. The march of modernity has brought many improvements. In medicine and dentistry to personal computing and communication. We can do so much more now. All from a smart phone. They say an iPhone today carries more information than the President of the United States had available to him a mere ten years ago.
And yet. Will tomorrow's generations know what it's like to get that special letter in the mail? Like the ones my Dad sent me while I was in college? Written in his familiar, beautiful copperplate handwriting. Or the letters from girlfriends. With their perfume and expressive cursive, pouring out feelings and dreams? Somehow email just doesn't compete.
There is one pleasure, however, that will never become eclipsed by modernity and technology. And that is sunsets. From the dawn of time man has stood transfixed by the glow of the setting sun. Somehow the glimmers of last light leave us calm and reflective. Like George Will's "flowers in winter," sunsets are metaphors for our own later years. The day's work behind us, we bask in the glow of a life well lived. The light less jarring now. Softer. Gentler.
Seems I'm always taking photos of sunsets, whether traveling on the road or in my hometown. There's just something about those last, smoldering rays of light. Hanging on for a bit longer before the cool blues and viridian of the night sky.
Technology is here to stay. The earth will keep spinning. And thankfully, sunsets will continue their faithful ritual. Slowly closing the curtains on the day. Shepherding us closer to slumberland and the promise of a new day.
I like painting sunsets and nocturnes. I envision the last rays of sun as glowing embers of a life coming to a close. I see the moon as promise of something more. Perhaps that's why lunar landscapes always look so dreamlike.
The next time you find yourself at day's end, try and steal a moment to watch the show. It doesn't have to be fiery oranges and reds. Even a hazy sunset in fog has an ethereal quality to it. The entire, grand process is often missed in our daily, rushed lives. Which is a pity. Because if George Will is right, I want as many memories of sunsets as possible to warm me in my winter.