Saturday, March 28, 2009

JUST A SUNSET…

I didn’t plan on writing about sunsets again, but… Last evening’s display was a corker, a real knock-your-socks-off presentation of dazzling sky color—the best of which actually came after the sun disappeared below the horizon. The show didn’t last long, but then sunsets are an ongoing process, a kaleidoscopic progression in hues of orange, pink, purple, and blue, that deepens and intensifies as day slides westward and night lays claim to the land. The image above was taken at almost the final instant before the upper portion of the sky went dark, whereupon the only color remaining was a fiery band just above the horizon. At this fleeting point, however, the puffy clouds and their wispy surrounding veils are simply glowing, as if soaking in the last vestiges of warm, fading sunlight. I took photos from beginning to end, but this single ephemeral moment is where everything came together, the event’s true crescendo. This morning, I uploaded the shots to my computer, weeded out the ones I didn’t like, or the blurry images where I again failed in my attempt to prove that I can indeed hand-hold a camera steady at a half second exposure. (Not anywhere close!) Afterwards, I filed several of my favorites shots into the folder labeled “SUNSETS.” I shoot a lot of sunset images, and almost as many sunrises. Most will never be printed, or used in illustration, either online or hardcopy. But I save them because every so often, I like pulling them up and viewing them on the computer’s screen. I like to remember, vicariously relive the time and place where they were taken…and in some small measure, perhaps recapture just a bit of the scene's sense of wonder. Wonder is important to me. I need a good dose of wonder on a regular basis. Wonder is the antidote when I begin feeling blasé; the stimulus for overcoming ennui. I seek wonder because I want to be awed, thrilled, mystified, amazed. What good is a life lived if it lacks wonder? Modern life is wonder’s anathema. The frenetic pace leaves little time for seeking out and enjoying wonder, while the mesmerizing flash and sizzle of technology would replace real wonder with some artificial version. Children are increasingly robbed of their burgeoning capacity to find pleasure in wonder by foisting on them the responsibility to succeed, while simultaneously frightening them with the perils of failure. Where does a kid find the freedom or willingness to experience wonder? The natural world is filled with wonder. Wondrous sights, wondrous sounds, wondrous smells, wondrous places and adventures. Surely a spectacular sunset delivers wonder. No matter that all sunsets share basic similarities. Sunsets are like people—no two are ever exactly alike. Just a sunset? Not on your life! It is a moment of wonder—and I say it’s worth anyone's time to allow this glorious culmination of the day to work its ancient natural magic in your soul.

27 comments:

Lynne said...

I like your way of thinking Griz. I take some heat among my family because I'm such a pokey walker. Little things catch my eye and I stop to look and to watch. We pass by so many wondrous moments.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lynne…

I guess that was my sermon for the week, or something—but I just don't understand why everyone is in such a hurry. Why we barely glance at things around us anymore. Why we look but don't see.

The world around is are so wondrous, so wonderful.…so filled with wonder.

Poky is good. It means you're looking, paying attention, learning and being excited or amazed or informed or just plain wowed by what you see. Life at its best exists within that moment of wonder.

Rowan said...

That is a wonderful photograph, one of my favourite winter sights is to see the tracery of bare branches against a fiery sunset. I agree with all that you've said - the words of the Welsh poet W.H.Davies are so true - 'What is this life if,full of care, we have no time to stand and stare'.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I like that use of the word "wonder" Scribe. As you know I live out in the countryside and I am constantly "waxing lyrical" at wild flowers, the birds, the sunsets, the dawns, the trees - I could not possibly live without constant reinforcement of these things - like you say - they are an essential part of my being.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

Well, that's just amazing! I started to put a line or two from another Davies poem, the Wonder-Maker, at the start of this post. I didn't because I'd started my last post with a poem. Now here you go and find another Davies line that's just as good—no, better!—than the one I'd intended. Amazing.

I also like the spare look of trees and their limbs against light—especially a sunset or sunrise, although I think you could silhouette an old shoe or barbecue grill against a fiery sky and make a pretty good photo.

Thank you for your lovely, thoughtful comment.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

You are so right. I think wonder is essential to the human spirit, our overall well-being. It certainly is to mine. The easy wonder of a child is one of life's greatest gifts. A child can find wonder in such simple things. As we grow older, we repress that easy wonderment at the common and the everyday things which surround all of us all the time, no matter where we live. Life if filled with things of wonder. And more than anything, I never want to become the sort of man who fails to find wonder, beauty, mystery, and joy in life—for to do so, I truly believe, is to fail to find life.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Yes! (I'd type that in the largest font-size possible if one could on comments!)

I think wonder is true riches. When people are pressurized into feeling they have to be 'productive' all the time, there is almost a sense of guilt in just stopping and looking, if it doesn't 'achieve' anything.

I too need my daily dose of wonder - more even than food.

Bella said...

I recently was reminded of my own love of wonder reading a quote on another blog from Marc Chagall .."the dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world...". I think as we speed up our living our sense of wonder decreases, you have to go real slow to see all the amazing changes happening in nature. I'm fiercely hanging on to my sense of wonder in this jaded world.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Raph…

We do all need wonder, more than we may know. Wonder is one of those positive energy sources, like love and joy. Wonder touches us deeply, yet it is so seldom spoken about. Why? Why do we so easily ignore such a powerful experience?

And you are absolutely right about the placement of guilt if our time is not spent "productively." Is love productive? Or joy? Or mystery?

I really do need wonder in my life—and I'm so glad you do too. That tells me a lot about where your heart is and your priorities. Any fellow WITW fan has to have have a good sense of wonder working in them—right?

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bella…

Hang on for all you're worth! Wonder is not to be lost or replaced, ignored or forgotten. Sometimes I find myself looking forward to a trip or experience simply because I know that somewhere along the line, my path will cross with something wondrous…if only I'm paying attention and willing to give my time to the moment.

Chagall is exactly right. I think that's what anyone working in the arts is always ultimately attempting.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

It's now getting warm enough to sit on the doorstep for my spring read of Mole's spring-cleaning and escape to the outdoors! I'll get my daily dose of wonder from two sources, the book, and my environment!

I like Bella's Chagall quote.

There was also a wonderful quote earlier today on Cloudia's blog http://comfortspiral.blogspot.com
from Nietzsche: 'We artists! We moon-struck and God-struck ones! We death-silent, untiring wanderers on heights which we do not see as heights, but as our plains, as our places of safety!'

There's an interesting kind of paradox there to me, that in pursuing that which is where our heart lies, not 'security', we find our security and inner stillness.

Time for my evening bowl of Ready-brek, I think!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Raph…

Kinda cold and cloudy here today for a riverbank read—but it's early and the afternoon may warm.

There is a lot of truth in the Nietzsche quote. But I like your observation even more—though I'd offer that while finding our security through pursuing a path of seeming insecurity is not a paradox, except when viewed in purely analytical terms by a heart bereft of poetry. Moreover, it goes right back to the meaning and necessity of wonder.

It seems to me that the only place where we ever do find security and "inner stillness" is by following and fulfilling our heart's longings and desires. We certainly don't find it by filling our bank account to overflowing, or by driving a bigger car, or living in a finer house. It doesn't come through material success or power, or because we're handsome or beautiful (or possess a long, furry neck with lovely spots!); it doesn't even come with the gift of artistic talent.

No, we find these things only when we listen to that quiet inner voice, the subtle whispers of our heart. It may take courage and perseverance, it may mean you disappoint others or reject an easier, more lucrative path, it will almost certainly put you outside the mainstream of conventional thinking. I believe that Thoreau's familiar quote, that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," directly applies to this lack of listening and/or an unwillingness to act.

Thus, "safe" thinking is the true paradox.

Wonder, is found when we listen…

giggles said...

Nice.....

Gail said...

just when I think you have taken my breath away completely by your photos one like this comes along and I am taken back and away to the 'wonder' of it all.

I love wonder, and I love to wonder.
I was watching the Canadian geese this morning caring for one another in the pond out front and I was filled with wonder. I took photos and will post them later but they are blurry. :-(

I pale in comparison to your photo genius!!

Love Gail
peace and wonder

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Thank you.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

What's this…? "Photo genius"? Oh, my! I wish! But no…not even close.

The sky colored up, as it is occasionally apt to do whether I wish it or not, at it's own convenience and never my urging or schedule. I saw this colored sky, thought it might get even more colored. No genius here, either, just experience and a lucky assumption. So I hauled my sorry carcass from the kitchen (where I was doing the non-genius chore of washing the supper dishes), grabbed a camera, and began shooting.

I did have the near-genius thought (okay, skill and foreknowledge based on years of messing up and the obviously recessive though not incapable ability to learn) and switched my camera's auto functions to aperture priority, meaning I could close the f-stops down (makes the little hole where the light passes through the lens smaller, letting in less light) because automatic metering will set things to where the scene is brightened to "normal" which would make it appear as though it were daylight rather than dimming dusk. A sunset is gaudy, but not as bright as if it were daylight. This would simply wash out most of the color. What I wanted to do was make them appear on the digital image as they looked to my eye. Auto camera are great in most situations, but sometimes you have to "fool" or control them in order to get what you want. It sounds a whole lot more complicated than it is. And again, no genius required…just a smidgen of knowledge and a bit of practice.

Boy, I'd sure like to claim that photo genius title, though. (Feel free to use it in your future comments; maybe repetition will have an effect. You reckon?)

The Solitary Walker said...

I'll let you into a secret - though I may have revealed it unawares in my walking blog; it may have slipped out somewhere between the lines and in some unnoticed corner of a photo.

I don't actually go on walking trips (short or long) for exercise, though that's undoubtedly a splendid by-product; nor to improve my map reading skills, though God knows they need improving; nor to get from A to B in the shortest possible time (sometimes I like to go via F, G and Z just for the hell of it, the pleasure of it, the unpremeditatedness and surprise of it); nor to take photos or to write about it or to see some famous sight or view I've previously drooled over in a guide book, though I can certainly remember some mind-blowing vistas; nor to reminisce and recount my stories to friends and family afterwards, though this is pleasurable to be sure (perhaps more for me than my reluctant but polite listeners!); nor to test out my latest gear and equipment, though good gear and equipment is definitely essential...

No, what I seek above all in the Great Outdoors is quite simple, though sometimes not easy to attain, and may happen when I'm least expecting it, when I'm down and lonely and marching through the rain with my night's lodging far ahead...

It's more mystical than practical, more a feeling than a fact. Call it wonder. Yes, a glorious, visionary sense of wonder. Yes call it wonder - that'll do.

The Solitary Walker said...

PS Loved the post, the comments and the sunset.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

Spoken like a true Wonder Junkie—and more power to you! There is no better reason to do so many things we read and write about, buy gear for, prepare and sweat and spend the precious and irreplaceable days of our life in doing than seeking wonder.

Wonder can't be manufactured, even by Disney. And thank God for that! Not that you can't experience wonder at Disney World or it's clones. But you know, in your recent post [http://solitary-walker.blogspot] on Abbey, in quoting his introduction to Desert Solitaire, doesn't the last paragraph in great part deal with wonder? Abbey was a Wonder Junkie, too.

A few years ago I spent a few days with a world-class botanist in North Carolina's Hazel Creek section of the Great Smokies. I swear it would take him three hours to cover a hundred yards of trail! Not because he just looked and pointed out certain plants, the knowledgeable expert revealing the depth and breadth of his knowledge, as he tried to tell me about whatever it was in language I understood—but because he was so excited! Those flowers and trees and plants filled him with unbridled wonder. A contagious wonder as he talked excitedly. I loved every every single minute. It is a real pleasure to be with someone willing to share wonder—to open that which moves him and tries to help you understand the wondrous before you.

To be able to become so filed with wonder is something I long for, look for, desire and need. I never want to lose my hunger for wonder. And I daresay neither do you.

Thank you for your fine and much appreciated comment. And I'm glad you liked the photo.

Mistlethrush said...

I certainly agree we are surrounded by natural wonders - we just need to recognise them.
Also agree about the abysmal pressures on kids today - a well rounded education that celebrates the myriad of intelligences beyond the three Rs would certainly help. And wonder is intelligent.
Just visiting from Weaver's blog - in case you were wondering....

Gail said...

Hi again-

first, I hardly understood most of the language you used to define the workings of a camera. :-) And I really do SO love your photos, you capture the essence of the moment - and ya, maybe some of it is a bit of 'timing-luck', but most of it is skill, acquired skill and a ton of knowledge evidenced by your description of how what and why!! :-)
It is, in my book, pure genius. Go check out my blurred Canadian geese on my latest post - a clear view of non-genius when it comes to photos. But I am having fun with it, for sure, thanks to YOU!! :-)

Love Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Mistlethrush…

I don't know what the answer is for countering today's pressurized world—but I do know wonder, and the capacity to recognize and be moved by wonder, is vital.

I hope you enjoyed your visit here, and that's you'll come back often. You're always welcome.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Tell you what…I'll do a simple photo posting on my blog one of these days. Simple because I'm a KISS sort of fellow.

I saw your geese pix, and read your posting. You ought to see the pair of Canadas in my yard; you'd recognize their behavior. Your observations are spot on. I liked your piece—geese, lists, firewood chopping, all.

And, still no genius here on my blog. No kidding.

Carolyn H. said...

Great sunset photo! Wonder is what I look for too. I see something amazing virtually every day, and if I don't, it's because I haven't been looking. To me, there isn't much wonder to be found in the sameness of the city street. It's found out where nothing is ever the same, not from one hour to the next.

Carolyn H.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

Amen to that! Cities offer some things I enjoy—particularly shopping selection when I need a new coat or want to paw through several used book store collections; and I like the arts and the museums, music, plays, etc.—but only on a temporary basis. I wouldn't trade my riverbank cottage for the fanciest brownstone in New York city—not even if you tossed in a million bucks; not if I actually had to live there.

And in large part, that's because I need my daily dose of wonder. WONDER in huge capitals, or wonder in small lowercase. It doesn't matter. An hour ago I sat on my deck (shivering, because it's decided to be cold again here in Ohio!) and watching sunlight sparkle off a riffle. The geese were on the rocky bar across from the cottage; A kingfisher was diving into a pool downstream. The resident Carolina wren was singing his heart out. The first of my yellow daffodils have just bloomed and in the strong light, looked as yellow as butter.

Nothing out of the ordinary. No big WONDER; just…wonder…and wondrous it was was. They don't sell that where concrete and steel and glass prevail.

Derrick said...

Hello Scribe,

Just visiting via Raph's Ramblings to read your views on 'wonder', although I must admit to seeing your name on other blogs I visit.

Your sunset is great. It is one of my favourite natural phenomena. Just now, in the shop, the sunlight hit a crystal lightshade in the window and sent a shaft of rainbow light across the room and into my tiny office/storeroom! Those are the simple things that offer such beauty.

I also notice that your blog template is the one to which I recently swapped, so we must have excellent taste! I enjoyed my visit, thanks.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Derrick…

I'm pleased you paid my riverside a visit. Please drop by any time—you're always welcome.

I took a look at your blog a moment ago, and "blatant commercialism" or not, thought it was charming and well done. I'll be back.

And yes, we do apparently share the same excellent taste in blog templates. :-)