I feel the cold ground through my jeans, the bark of an oak against my back. It is just one of many oaks that grow rail straight on this point, a bluff raised above the surface of the lake. A camera strap drapes across my black hoodie, rising slackened to the camera in front of my face. My left eye closes as my right adjusts to the setting sun focused in my lens.
The afternoon’s breeze is now barely a puff, saving me from the regret of leaving my coat indoors as the sun’s warmth recedes. The center of the lake flows freely, but the ice in the coves persists. Canada geese line the edges of the ice, lazy flotillas close to flowing water without having to swim. They stand as noisy silhouettes against the gold sunlight that reflects off both the ice and water.
The remnants of summer’s wildflowers become gilded outlines as the sun reaches for the horizon. Once the stars of summer, the dried goldenrod and liatris now need the tip of Helios’ paintbrush to shine. It is easy at this golden hour to understand why the sun has been worshiped for centuries.
The tone of the sky changes as the sun drops below the tree line across the lake. Gold remains at the tips of the clouds, brightly illuminated against the blue sky.
The surface of the lake alternates between gold and deep blue. Trees begin to reflect in the open pools between the ice. In small cacophonous groups, the geese take flight from their frozen platform for destinations out of sight.
The light shifts inconspicuously from gold to pink as only the longest, red rays of the sun remain unscattered in the atmosphere. It’s a color my grandfather taught me as sky blue-pink. I always wondered why it never came in a box of crayons, but I now understand why. The sky blue-pink doesn’t exist separate from circumstance, as ephemeral as the sunset itself.
Just as fading light brings the reflection of sky blue-pink to the calming surface of the lake, and the last of the geese have quieted for the night, I momentarily feel my solitary place on the point. Solitary, but not lonely. I am one with the earth beneath my feet, and the others who have chosen to look to the sky with me.
My parting view of the day included a contrail high above the clouds. I wondered where the people in the plane were traveling, where they were in their journey of life. Was there a 10-year old girl peering out the window of 7B, amazed at her first sunset from 20,000 feet? An man in 16C who is approaching the end of his days, returning home after spending one last Christmas with his grandchildren?
The white streak in the sky may be the only time they ever cross paths with my journey, but I wish them safe travels and good tidings. I have a singular hope for us all — that we take pause and savor the day.