Sunset was stunning yesterday.
It reminded me of someone.
She, at age 73, stepped out of character. She packed up a very few things, sold the rest, and went to a place where she knew only one person and could speak only a scant sum of words.
Unlike her, this was. Out of the blue, she suddenly had a brimful of gumption. It started when a man winked at her from across the room. She glanced away at first, then turned and walked toward him, extended her hand and spoke softly in his ear. And they began to dance.
She tells me that she had never been so bold and that she never, ever regretted it.
He was visiting friends. She was recently widowed. People she cared about worried, talked, judged. But she went on to the other side of the world and spent a few years on the waning side of her life with a man she met at a dance for seniors.
When she talks about that time, she smiles.
I have looked at her wrinkled face and faded blue eyes and I have heard in her voice the joy of adventure.
The thrill of dropping everything.
The satisfaction of letting go of expectations and obligations.
“Why not?” she said to me.
Why not step out of character and do something that seems scary?
Why give up something because others might talk?
Why not do something you’ve always wanted to do?
The only thing stopping her was herself.
And she threw away all that had held her back and went to the other side of the world and touched love again.
Now, she has outlived her second husband. She has returned home, lives alone in a small condo closer to family and doesn’t go to the senior dances.
But she smiles.
She smiles when she talks of him and when she speaks of the things they did.
She smiles when she talks about the sunsets they watched from the porch of their house that overlooked the hilltops.
There were many, many glorious sunsets, she says.
She walks with a cane now and makes it as far as the bench that overlooks the lake. From that point, she can sit and look to the south and see Pikes Peak. She grew up in its shadow and likes to look out and see it and remember.
And as the sun goes down, she thinks of him.
I admire her nerve. I admire her smile. I admire that she chose watching sunsets with a lover over watching television with a cat.
At the end of the day yesterday, when I took my camera outside to capture the day’s sunset, I thought of her. I moved quickly so I wouldn’t miss that last glorious show of color and beauty. If I am not careful, I get lost in the humdrum of evening goings-on and I miss it altogether. While I’m looking elsewhere, I miss the show. The sun drops and is gone.
But it should not to be missed. There are a few magnificent moments just before the sun disappears and it becomes dark and cold. Often, the last few moments before the sun goes below the horizon are the most astonishing and breathtaking moments of the day. A flash of splendid at the end of otherwise ordinary days.
She had some astonishing, breathtaking and splendid moments in her time, it seems.
She tells me to never miss an opportunity to watch a sunset with a lover.
And I promise her I won’t.
And when I am alone I promise myself to look for extraordinary surprises in the midst of the ordinary.
To not let the sun fade away unnoticed.
And to find brilliance at the end of the day.