The sun sets almost on cue in June, late enough to chase it down over the bay as the day rests. In its warm rays, I rest. In the after glow, the cerulean sky painted with slate-grey clouds, I find myself still, if not stagnant. The last of my Kecoughtan days wanes, and my heart breaks at the bittersweet goodbyes knowing the senior girls who’ve labored on our yearbook for four years will soon replace it with new hobbies, that their smiles will no longer be a staple in my classroom. If I could pause the world to catch up, I’d sit in tonight’s sunset for a few days at least, soaking up the hope in its kaleidoscope of color.
I’m not sure I have anything of value to write about that’s worth another’s time. I flirted with sitting on the rocks beside the bay and abandoning a nearly one-hundred-and-seventy night streak of Tuesdays here on my front porch. So much as changed, but I am still breathing. Despite the challenges of this year, my yearbook staff produced an inspiring annual worthy of the legacy we’d built together, boasting green and white. My sophomores gave me the best parting gift ever in the original poetry they produced this spring, and I’ll cherish the treasure it was to guide them to find their own voices.
I’m still finding my voice, it seems.
In the absence of my old routine, a daily schedule more than two years ingrained in my car’s GPS, I’ve found myself engaging in conversations with new players. From my writer’s perch, I can hear my next door neighbor’s voice intermingling with our street’s landscaping expert. They live in the houses to the right of me, and over the last four years, we’ve had ample opportunities to get to know one another. Living beside me, I imagine this man knows more about me than some of my friends. He knows when my routines change. Today, we talked about family and time. He reminded me that things work out as their supposed to, and I took to heart his fatherly reminder not to dwell on what I should or could have done differently in these past few months to have avoided causing others pain. In a sense, I made this bed, I’m lying in it, and it’s the choices I make now that matter most.
That’s why I wanted to pause tonight’s sunset. The days are climbing ever forward, and I am not ready for what comes next.
It only came as a surprise to some that I had ended my engagement. Our school accountant has become another dear friend since I moved to Hampton, and I’m grateful for her ear and counsel. She has an uncanny way of seeing the silver lining. I’m grateful for friends like her who call to check on me and reassure me that the future still has beauty. Whenever I was having a tough day at work, I knew I could sneak into her office and she’d find a way to capture the hope of tonight’s sunset in a story about her life that encouraged me in the grey areas.
Truth and trust and trouble, they go hand in hand. Truth should be black and white, but humans are too colorful to exist in stark contrast. No, more like the hues of gold and amber interlacing with white puffs of clouds over a crystal aquamarine sea reflecting a half a dozen shades of blue, truth changes subtly when the light shifts. The physical objects within the camera frame would be the same morning, noon, and night, but the play of the light across the docks and the water changes the picture. I’ve crossed the Pembroke bridge to and from work too many times to count, and no two mental photographs are equal in shade or content. Rather, the colors bleed together until you cannot see the lines.
My gym mentor Chuck levels with me. In our chats this week, he’s been trying to help me figure out what to do after ruining happily ever after. Instead of getting married and moving to Germany, I’m looking for work and mending fences. Today while hitting the elliptical, he picked up on a theme and commented that I couldn’t please others if I wasn’t happy with myself. I looked back at the road that led me here, to the same spot on my white wicker love seat as I’ve been for the last three years, but with an entirely different future than I had three weeks ago. Truth and trust and trouble. I’d stopped being honest with myself. Trust was impossible. Trouble was inevitable.
I can look at the sunset and tell you the colors that I see. I can paint you a picture of my world at this instant, the sun long since disappeared, just the white slats of my front porch illuminated by the street lights permeate the night. I can’t see the magnolia blossoms, just silhouettes that might be any tree. I could take a photograph now and believe they were oak trees, and by this light, you might believe me. I didn’t know I’d become a liar and fed you my shades of gray. The trouble is in being human.
Because truth isn’t black and white. There was a fight in my classroom a few weeks back, and though a handful of students witnessed the incident, I heard a smattering of variations in the story. They were slight differences in details, but truth became subjective. Just as the horizon doesn’t actually change beneath the sunset, the existential truth remains obscured by the light at day’s beginning, middle, and end. Surely, the creepy statue freed from the shadow of night’s cloak is a wonder of man’s handiwork when the sun’s rays are dancing with the stone twelve hours later. What I see before me know is different even than an hour and a half ago when I first popped open my laptop to write.
I saw it all in the fading sunset, the trees and overgrown grass and weed-infested garden beds. I saw all that I should do if time could just pause. All the weeding and pruning. The trimming and ripping and work it takes to make something beautiful. It’s intimidating. I was leaving, so I didn’t plant a garden. Now, I see the unkempt mess that grew while I wasn’t paying attention. It’s overwhelming.
Now, it’s dark. I know the work that needs to be done, but the grey hues of moonless sky are forgiving. When I came up with the name for my blog, it was simply an observation of what writing nights had been for me. I grew as I wrote, and those analogies began in the garden. We have a lot in common now. I’d love to pause tonight’s sunset, to sit and think about what comes next, to grieve the last chapter before starting a new one, to store up all the hope and wonder to carry me through what comes next.
Because even thought the sunset and the colors and shades and hues have resolved into darkness, what the light illuminated still remains. I know all the weeding and pruning and trimming and ripping it will take to make me beautiful again, where it matters. It’s beyond a gardening task for one. After happily ever after, when the most familiar face is gone, the sun’s rays illuminate friends who had been there all along, waiting to help you pick up the pieces when the sun finally comes up again.