When I went outside yesterday evening, I was hoping to see a sunset in the making. I'd spent the entire day bunkered in my writing room, working first on finishing a couple of deadlined pieces, then taking up a longer project I have going. From my deskside window, I have a good view of the river below the cottage, several bird feeders, and much of the side yard. But I can't really see the main area of the hill to the west, beyond the house and across the river, where the sun finally disappears. And because of the roof's overhanging eaves, I can't see much of the much of the sky in that direction, either. Unless it's a real show-stopper of a sunset—one of those which encompass practically the entire sky—I may not realize anything is going on.
I didn't really expect much, however. The day had been mostly cloudy, though not one of those with such a thick sky cover that it produces a sort of gloomy perpetual twilight. Just a medium-to-light overcast, though when I stepped onto the deck and took a look, still solid and unbroken, which in my experience, isn't what you want for good sunsets. I waited anyway, however, because I've been wrong before when it comes to making the call on potential sunsets.
Unfortunately, this wasn't one of those times. Over to the west the brighter area of the gray sky began to sink below the horizon. The light dimmed noticeably. Sundown, sunset, or whatever you want to term this non-show had apparently taken place. No dramatic sky shots this time around. Still, I had an itchy shutter-finger—so I looked around for something to photograph, hoping a string of geese, a few ducks, or even a lone heron would come flying along, as they often do this time of day, and give me a possible silhouette shot. Nada.
That's when I noticed the channel across from the cottage which, for much of the year unless the river gets really low, divides the single long island into two. The waning light—such as it was—seemed to catch on the surface, reflecting a sort of warm golden. sheen. Leaning sycamores stood pale, ghostly. There was both mystery and a bit of magic to the scene. I braced the camera against the deck rail and took a few photos. Then I zoomed in and made several shots of just the river's surface, hoping to capture some of the green-gold mix of water and light.
Sometimes—too often, I suspect—we go out looking for the spectacular, and end up missing the subtle. We seek the brightest and most colorful, that which is dazzling or gaudy…and in so doing, overlook the quite beauty all around. More and more, we as a culture—as individual people—seem to prefer flash over substance, perhaps because the first is easier to assimilate. We'd rather be wowed than moved…see a striking sunset rather than a soft afterglow.
The shame of it is, both can take your breath away…