Sharon Randall: Come watch the sunset

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 3, 2011

Thereís an art to watching a sunset. Or maybe itís just age. Either way, Iím good at it.
My husband is good at it, too. It was the first redeeming quality I saw in him. Our initial meeting was not what youíd call love at first sight.
Years ago, I was a reporter in a newsroom where heíd just been hired as an editor. His first day on the job, he was assigned to edit my column. I donít recall what the column was about. I just recall I rather liked it.
So I gave it to him, then sat at my desk awaiting his response. I waited a long time. Hell began to freeze over. Finally, I had to ask: ěMy column? Is it OK?î
ěOh,î he said, glancing up from some stupid news story he was editing. ěSure, itís fine.î
Fine? Time passes. Wounds heal. Yeah, right. Weeks later, I was on deadline finishing a story, when suddenly he announced to the newsroom, ěEverybody outside for sunset!î
We looked up, blinking like coal miners freed from the black abyss of our computers. As the other sheep trotted out to the patio, I put my head down to work. Going out the door, he called, ěYou, too, Randall.î
I donít recall that sunset. It was probably like countless others Iíve seen on the coast of Northern California, at the end of a gray summer day, when the sun finally bursts through the fog bank and splashes color ó fiery red, neon pink and ashes of roses ó all across the bay.
I do recall I rather liked it. Mostly I liked the fact that he had noticed it, and that he wanted us to notice it, too.
What I saw in him that day was a thing my grandmother called ěpotential,î but it would be years before I saw it clearly.
For the record, I have never seen a sunset I didnít like.
I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where sunsets like to linger, pouring over one old peak, then the next. My earliest memories are of watching those sunsets, feeling their mark, like a cattle brand on my soul.
Imagine my surprise at 19, when I left Carolina, to find that the sun also sets in California. And the simple act of watching it could make me feel at home.
Imagine my surprise again after years as a widow, to marry my former editor, move to Las Vegas and find that the sun also sets in the desert. And the simple act of watching it still makes me feel at home.
Last week, for the first time in too long, we took a vacation, my husband and I, and went to the Florida Keys. We sat on a beach, read a stack of books, got bitten by squadrons of mosquitoes and watched eight perfect sunsets.
One evening we shared the dock with some teenagers who sat laughing, punching at each other, until the sun sank below the horizon. Then they left.
We rolled our eyes. Rookies. They would miss the best part.
After a lifetime of watching sunsets, here is what I know:
First, the sun isnít picky. It sets everywhere ó mountains, oceans, desert, even in memory. Where doesnít matter. What counts is who you are and the company you keep.
Second, to see it truly, you have to be still; breathe it in, let it fill up every empty place inside you. Itís a mini-vacation free every day with one destination: Home.
Finally, never say itís over until itís over. Sunsets are like people: They have potential. Give them time to show you their true colors. Sometimes life likes to save the best for last.
Weíre back home once again, scratching our mosquito bites and doing piles of laundry. He’s grilling pork ribs. I’m writing a column. So much for vacation.
But there are fresh peonies on the table and 10 fuzzy quail chicks parading across the patio. And my former editor is yelling at me to come watch the sunset.
All I can say is, ěFine.î

Contact Sharon Randall at