Monday, December 7, 2015

A Better Question Than Mine

The sunset was mighty fine a few nights ago.  We were sitting at the dining room table and the room began to glow in yellows and golds and that is always a very good sign.  My back faces the glass doors that open out to an oft-imagined but non-extant deck.  I turned and looked out to the horizon on my right.  The sun was gone and the show was not there this time.  I bent my knees a bit and looked up.  Row after vertical row of rolling high cirrocumulus clouds striped the sky like pickets from the dark western horizon to nearly the eastern.  Each one glowed in rich reds and oranges and each leading edge was tipped in gold leaf, all behind the black outline of the leafless maples.

The sky was without hesitation "stripey," as Nick put it.

It was a pretty cool sunset.

The very next morning, the very same table, the very same room - this time glowing in salmons and pinks.  I turn again.  I look left and again there is no sun - yet, this time.  Fast clouds, grey, but really purple, race from south to north, whipping the dry leaves everywhere and bending the tall cedars at the edge of my neighbor's yard.  Looking up I realize that higher clouds can be seen between the fast moving purple-gray lower ones and they are the source of the color and light.  The dance moves quickly as the ominous stratus clouds reveal and conceal and frame and obscure the rich pink and red of the higher altocumulus above.

"That contrast is awesome, Dad," Zack says, suddenly next to me, summing it up nicely.

It was a pretty cool sunrise.

Now, I've explained the basic optics and such - angle of incidence and all that.  We've discussed and wondered and marveled at the intrinsic and extrinsic beauty of sunsets and sunrises.  The boys have drawn them in crayons and markers, I've mentioned both numerous times here.  Just, well, we've considered them.  I've considered them longer.

Zack and I sit back down at the table, back to coffee and Poptarts, routine and comfort.  Nick, who'd been watching from his chair, sits with a spoonful of Cheerios poised for slurping and says:

"Which do you think's best, Dad, a sunrise or a sunset?"

 "I've never considered it before, Nick."  I pause, offput, "That's a damn good question"

 Zack returns with, "That's a tough question."

I stand up to get another cup of coffee as they continue to discuss - reverently, I might add - the topic at hand.  I stare out the window as the fast wind blows and the sky darkens with more and more low clouds.


It is a tough question.  It's the kind of question that, well, I shoulda come up with.

I am not so sure I can answer it, myself.

I suppose if I just look at them, say a painting or image of both, which do I like best?  Do the golds and reds of sunset please me more than the pinks of sunrise?  Is the horizon dark, can I see the sun, would I like to?  Imagine if both were in the same sky.  Would I turn my back to warm it in the setting sun and watch the glory of the rising?  Or would I salute the majesty of the setting sun and know that the eastern sun will warm me later?

And, just like that, that quickly, I did what I didn't want to do yet, but it makes my point.  I couldn't even go one paragraph in considering Nick's unanswerable question before I started using words dripping with denotation and undertones.  "Majesty" and "glorious" slipped in and I was intentionally trying to avoid descriptors like that.

You see, a beautiful thing - a tree, a painting, a painting of a tree, poetry, prose, a waterfall, a sunrise, dusk - is not only what you are seeing at that moment, it is all the things you bring to it, from your past.

Let's reconsider in that light.

Are sunsets sad to me because they ended days and sunrises hopeful for they began them?  Or, are sunsets a triumphant finale and sunrises the squeaky beginning to yet another day of unknowns?  Have more dawns worried me than sunsets comforted?

Is a sunset a prayer of thanksgiving and a sunrise a song of praise, or does praise and glory belong to the sunset, fading royally to be born again in morning when, perhaps, the thanks should begin in earnest?

Have I held more hands - little, soft, calloused, big, perfumed, dirty - in sunset's light or, have I held more lovers in dawn's?  Have I laughed more towards the west, cried more to the east?  Have I toasted more setting suns with a beer and ten other fellows in the mountains, or more times raised my coffee to the sun's rise alone at ocean's edge?

Have I been warmer at sunset with a day's accumulated warmth all around me or has the sun's demise taken away the day's warmth, the warmth sunrise begins?  Have I seen more of one or the other in the heat of summer - sunsets perhaps - and more rises in the cold of winter?  

Is there passion in the pinks of sunrise, melancholy in the golds of sunset?

Is sunset an enemy; sunrise a friend?

Is the rising sun optimism; setting pessimism?  Is one eternity the other finality?

Sunset, Grace; sunrise, Hope?

Which is best?  I can't decide, and that is the very nature of a good, tough question.

I've been thinking on this for a while.  I was ill for a week and then I served on a Grand Jury, so, I've not sent anything out this way for a while.  I doubt it matters, but I just thought I should mention it.  I still don't have an answer, but, because I've been considering it all, I sure did sift through some lovely memories, thanks, Nick.

Also, I've been watching the skies a bit more carefully.  I even took a couple pictures on my phone.  This is a picture of a sunrise in the back yard a couple of days ago:

This sunset played out in front of me as the boys practiced basketball that same day:

It looks like I might be considering this question for a while.  I may ask it of others.  I like it, I like this kind of thinking, I like evoking memories.

From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."

"I got a pet robot. His name is Muffin."


You know what?  I think I should have to answer the question.  I brought it up, right?

Sunsets are the best.

Peace to you all.  Thanks for stopping by.  I wonder which you think is best?

For me it's definitely sunrises...

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