One of my other side hustles this summer is working at Fred and Fuzzy’s. I drive the shuttle cart back and forth from the parking lot to the waterside. It’s great work if you can get it. I’ve only worked a handful of times when they need the extra help, but it is the best job I’ve ever had. I’ve received no formal training. I have no job description. I have no boss. I pick people up and drop them off. One Saturday earlier in the summer I made $120 in tips.
Tonight, I need to be on a meeting and missed half of my shift. I would have gladly passed up the other half, but the weather was nice. As I chatted and loaded and loaded guests, I saw the flicker of cell phones capturing the perfect Door County sunset. The breeze stopped. The water calmed. The sun hung above the water with a honeyed glow. I thought, ‘I will make one more loop and then stop and take a picture.’ By the time I returned to the waterside, the sun had nestled behind some far-off lake clouds. The golden honeyed sunset dissolved into a lackluster faded gray.
In my head, I heard myself say, ‘You missed it,’ with disappointment and regret. As I puttered the electric six-seater gold cart back toward the parking lot, it occurred to me that I did not miss the sunset. I saw it. I appreciated it. I felt the appropriate sense of awe fitting for the spectacle. What I didn’t do was capture the image on my phone. What I didn’t do was record the moment on Facebook. What I didn’t do was permanently fix a temporary wonder.
We are like that. We capture beauty. We secure and imprison the things that move us. We want to relive that one moment forever and for always at the expense of other moments, other movement, other beauty.
I think of the Buddhist mandala art. Monks working and praying, creating elaborate sand art for days and weeks only to dismantle the work as a symbol of our impermanence. They build a temporary canvas and illustrate with a temporary medium and dismantle the whole thing to remind themselves—and us—of our temporariness.
Perhaps sunsets work the same way. The transience of a moment, the sun at the perfect angle set against the perfect sky above the perfect lake. The transience of a day fading fast against gathering clouds. The transience of a summer waning quickly into the months of long shadows—September and October. The transience of a life lived well.
Rather than ‘I missed it’, tonight I say, ‘I’m glad I caught a glimpse’.
Because a glimpse was all I needed.
I love you.
I need you.
I hope for you.
Please be safe.