Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sleeping Through Sunsets

If I can put one touch of rosy sunset into the life of any man or woman, I shall feel that I have worked with God.”
G. K. Chesterton

How strange this fear of death is! We are never frightened at a sunset.”
George MacDonald

Two of my writer friends and I are sitting in a coffee shop during our write-in. We're in the upstairs loft section, and I turn to look out the window at the pink-pearl sunset over Bellingham Bay. The window in the loft is long and low and two comfortable brown leather chairs (is there a brown leather furniture outlet for coffee shops?) sit under the window. A girl is curled up asleep in one of them as the pale sun sets through silver clouds.

One of my favorite poems that I have ever written and never shared outright was about chasing sunsets. I wrote it after the first summer I spent traveling with my heart-ministry, Worldview Academy (they're starting up in 3 different locations around the U.S. next week!). During that first summer, I built some friendships that have stayed with me for more than 10 years and will hopefully go on for years more.

If you've ever worked at any summer camp, you'll understand a little of what I mean when I say the phrase that came to mind when I thought about working at WVA that summer was "Chasing Sunsets." The rest of the poem flowed from that, though I don't remember it in entirety. And I can't look it up because it was written in Chinese ink on the silver edge of a hand-painted picture frame I made with my friend Erica. The pen strokes have long since faded, and all that's left are remnants of my written impression of that summer and those friendships.
Every moment of every day at camp was packed brimful; on the weekends we did paperwork and drove to the next location in 15-passenger vans, sometimes as many as 18 hours. We had only moments of rest, snatches of peace to sit still and just be. But though we were short on sleep, I never felt the slightest impulse to sleep through the sunsets. Those bits of peace, the brief afternoon's stop at the Grand Canyon, a sunset on a Malibu beach while the faculty leaders kept an eye on the students for us, those were moments to be treasured.

Sometimes I catch myself sleeping through the moments I should be treasuring; watching TV when the sun is shining, or letting my plans for writing and painting be hijacked by a game or a movie.

I headed the last post with a quote by George Bernard Shaw about occupation being a cure for unhappiness. While this is partly true, and a good challenge for me, it's also true that I can get so busy that I end up "sleeping" through the bits of life that should be treasured, savored. Like sunsets.

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