This past weekend I got into my car for a run to the store and realized it was the first real time I’d been outside all day. The thing that made me realize, more than the fresh air, was a blazing sunset. It was, in fact, one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen in all my life.
No kidding, I wanted to cry, and yes, it made me feel silly and dramatic. I also felt resentful that driving, houses, and the tops of trees were getting in my way. I wanted to pull over, spread a blanket down and stare– bathe my eyes in the golden orange, glowing jewel-box haze of the evening. Instead, because I had promises to keep, I drove. One hand on my beating chest, one hand on the wheel. One eye on the sky, one on the road.
Although I love writing and nature, I’ve never felt like a strong nature writer. Describing the sunset or the moving of a bough in the breeze and the sparrow perched on it always feels forced and cliche, like the way some people write about love. So for this sunset, I’ll borrow the words of Robert Bolano, “The sky, at sunset looked like a carnivorous flower.”
Having reached my destination, I turned back for the drive home. That’s when I saw it– a full glowing moon lit up in a clear blue sky, as if evening had changed its mind. My mouth fell open, my driving slowed, and I felt like my heart would burst. This was free and priceless, and I almost missed it. Back at home, I handed the binoculars to my son as we climbed to higher ground for an unobstructed view.
We forget, don’t we? We forget to pause and look outside, go outside, be outside. Yet when we find ourselves outdoors on a beautiful evening and birds are cawing out their last caws of the evening, and the air is fresh, and the colors of the sky makes the world seem magical– the unbearable lightness of being, you apologize to yourself, and to the universe, and to God, for not doing this more often.
If you don’t do it for the eyeball full of visual ecstasy (because you’re a wacko), then do it for your health.
In the 1980s a scientist named Roger S. Ulrich ran an experiment on patients recovering from surgery and discovered that those who were able to see trees from their hospital window got out of the hospital faster, had fewer complications, and required less medication for pain than those who looked at a brick wall. Amazing, right? They need to do a better job of advertising their research to the general public.
If you can’t make it outside, can you make it a point to schedule time to look out the window during the course of your day? I know it sounds like ultimate airhead hippie shit, but I’m an airhead hippie, so it makes sense. Science backs me up; nature’s handing out mood boosters for free. Go get you some.
If you don’t want to do it for your overall sense of health and well being, then you know what’s left– do it for the Gram. You can’t go wrong. Grab your morning coffee or afternoon tea and head out.
I used to go out more evenings around sunset and just take in the scene, but the other night reminded me that I could use more of it. I hope you join me outside. Also, here’s a fragment of the poem I’ll be discussing it on this week’s Lit Talks on Instagram Live, Thursday at 8pm est. I’d love for you to follow and join the discussion.
“Knee-deep in the cosmic overwhelm, I’m stricken
by the ricochet wonder of it all: the plain
everythingness of everything, in cahoots
with the everythingness of everything else.”
Diane Ackerman’s poem “Diffraction (for Carl Sagan)”
My name is Lyz-Stephanie and I want to inspire you to be more connected to yourself and the world, to find beauty in simple pleasures, and to have more adventures. Every day we can do something to make our lives happier and richer, make our minds more active and engaged. I’m on the journey. Will you join me?