I’ll admit I’ve briefly lost myself in a fantasy of riding off into the sunset with Charming (as any woman with a healthy imagination is warranted to do on occasion); a spontaneous cruise to the Bahamas saw this fantasy fulfilled with a car, a ship, and a moped. Though I’ve been back on solid ground for four days, part of me is still lost at sea.
The concrete tangibility of Charming’s arms around me conflicted with the abstract awe of the sky and the sea as the sun set on 2015 over Paradise Island. After a day adventure on our own around the island, we dined on some pizza on the ship and headed to the upper deck. There was a postcard photo in every direction. Obliged by Mother Nature, I took advantage.
You’ve probably watched at a sunset before. Maybe you’re like me, and while the only words form don’t seem to do it justice, you exhale, “It’s… beautiful.” And we know what you mean. Substitute breathtaking or wonderful, and the adjectives are still aimed at describing an abstract, untouchable sunset. Words don’t capture it well.
Yet, we still try. We quite naturally praise that which is praiseworthy. We tend to audibly encourage others to take note: “Wasn’t that play incredible? The set design was so authentic! It’s the best rendition I’ve seen!” When we are pleased by an event, circumstance, or even a person, we invite others to share in experiences we feel are valuable.
And this concept is just as abstract as the sunset. I know there’s a scientific explanation for the spectrum of colors as the planets rotate, but it’s been over a decade since I studied that in ninth grade; forgive me if I choose to set aside logic and be amazed by something I don’t understand. Moreover, I don’t particularly want to understand it.
As the shifting shades of reds, oranges, and yellows painted the horizon in the west, the blue skies darkened to an indigo in the east with pink highlights streaking once-white clouds. The sun’s reflection on the ocean cast glimmering streams of light on the sea, simulating a 360 degree horizon where the sun sets into the sun. I was so mesmerized by the vision that I have only the deck rail to thank for keeping me from being pulled into it myself.
Even after careful diction choices, I still don’t feel I’ve done it justice. Maybe you had to be there. Fortunately, Charming was, and we quite naturally praised that which was praiseworthy. We could share in the experience. I wasn’t thinking about New Year’s resolutions or the events of the year past. I was simply living in a dream, fully aware of Charming’s hand to keep me anchored to reality.
I still haven’t made any resolutions this year (and honestly, I don’t know that I will). I had thirty resolutions on a bucket list a few months old and I’ve tacked four off already. The most recent was the last day of our trip in Charleston, SC where Charming made certain I got to see the sun rise and set in the same day. I’ve been living intentionally, so that wouldn’t make for a new resolution.
My teacher friends have made resolutions to lose weight, get a divorce, eat healthier, and control anger. Resolutions require reflection and commitment, and we allow one midnight a year to reset our track record and resolve to improve ourselves and our lives.
One of the items on my thirties list is to achieve my ideal weight. The terms are intentionally vague. I loved being a size two in my twenties, and enough failed resolutions have resolved me to more realistic aspirations. I don’t look the same in a bikini. I certainly don’t feel the same. When the sun rose on New Year’s Eve, I fastened a bikini around all the curves and hoped for the best.
There were a handful of moments I was worried about how I looked in a bathing suit, but I can’t pinpoint them. They were littered between riding a moped across the eastern shore, reading Tolkien on a deserted beach, and navigating back roads without street signs. Charming encouraged me that I didn’t have anything to worry about, and he was right.
I’ve been sorting through the pictures, and the last thing my attention is drawn toward is me. First, it’s the smiles. Then him. Then the scenery. I can’t help but smile back at the photographs. They attempt to capture these abstract moments of joy, excitement, and adventure that are just as intangible as the beauty of the sunset. Words can’t do it justice, and neither can a picture. But we still try.
Because abstract moments are sometimes praiseworthy, and it’s human nature to respond with praise. Another abstract concept.
Over the course of our cruise, we read some J.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. What delights me about both authors is their overabundant use of parentheses. There might be three sets within the same paragraph! For whatever reason, the authors saw certain comments as not essential to the current plot, but worth including. Often the digressions, opinions, and explanations set off in parentheses richen or deepen my understanding of the narrative. What’s in parenthesis would have no meaning without the story containing it, but the story does not lose meaning without the aside.
I think that praise is enclosed in parentheses. We witness a beautiful sunset. That’s the story. The praise is meaningless without an instigating event, but the event does not lose meaning without praise. The sunset, absent my attempts to laud it, would still be a beautiful sunset. But my words of praise, set off in parentheses, richen and deepen the experience.
For me, the awe of a sunset directs my attention upward. I don’t understand the chemical interactions, but I know the One who invented that sunset and authored that wonderment. That takes more than a mastermind; it takes the Master’s Mind. My weak attempts to capture His majesty don’t do Him justice, but I still try. In words and in pictures, I’m praising Him in all His abstract brilliance made tangible in a sunset with Charming.
Perhaps if I were to make a resolution this year, it would be to praise more. Not gratuitously (as one might caution), but just as I resolved to live intentionally with my bucket list, I might resolve to lose myself intentionally in the parentheses of praise, where life richens and deepens. Praise rose as the sun set on 2015.