Sudden Sunset


It’s early fall here in New England.  As is typical for this time of year in this fickle place, we have been swinging gently between cool, crisp air and the heat and humidity of summer.  The air smells of late summer; browning leaves, cooling earth, a breeze from the north.

Today was a steamy day.  My classroom was thick with heat and moisture and excited fifth graders. I came home with my blouse damp and clinging, my hair lank, my spirits slightly sagging.

The sky was a uniform slate gray; we desperately need rain, but we seem to be limited to occasional cloudy days.  Rain has been glaringly absent for the past couple of months.

I made dinner, cleaned up the house a bit, checked my email.  I set up tomorrow’s coffee and made my lunch. Paul came home and we ate supper quietly. The air stayed damp and warm, the sky stayed gray.  I thought for sure that rain was coming.  I thought that the solid silver cover over us would be there for a long time.

When dinner was over and all cleaned up, I sat on the couch, ready to do some lesson plans.  The news was on in the background, but I wasn’t fully tuned in.  The big bay window on my left showed the yellowing leaves of the trees against the dark metallic sky.

But all of a sudden, without any warning, the sky turned the most beautiful shade of rose gold. The clouds lit up, the air suddenly felt cool.  I ran outside to try to take a photo, knowing that I couldn’t possibly capture that beauty with a smartphone.  Still, I gave in to the powerful demand to capture and hold the image of that sky.

I was right.

I couldn’t really grasp it. I couldn’t hold onto the shifting shades of pink and salmon and mauve.  I couldn’t find a way to frame the golden leaves against that amazing backdrop.

Still, I had to try.

A sudden, unexpected burst of glory like that has to be grabbed and held and described, no matter how feeble the effort.

Otherwise, how can I be sure that it was even real?

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