Whenever I am home, I take a lot of pictures of the sunset both on my camera and in my mind. I act as if I were a tourist who has never witnessed a Hawaiian sunset. Even though all my pictures have the same familiar elements—golden globe, pink and purple skies, waves forming in the distance or crashing on the shore, and palm trees in the foreground—I seem determined to capture every moment of this quotidian occurrence.
Recently, I had just returned to the Big Island after having spent an extended period on the mainland. Because I live in Hawaii and work in Denver, I can at times get habituated to the harried life of being an executive leader of a thriving media and tech company, and forget to take the contemplative life I’ve established at home with me when I’m off-island.
On this particular evening, I found myself madly running errands as sunset was approaching. As I completed my to do list, I happened to be driving up the crest of a hill and was awestruck by the expansive view of a crisp horizon where ocean meets sky and my glorious sun about to go down. I thought to myself, “I hope I don’t miss sunset before I get home.” Looking at the clock on my dashboard and recalling that the sun had been setting at around 7:07 p.m., I frantically tried to calculate whether or not I could make the mad dash to my place to catch it on time. As silly as it sounds, I was actually rushing to have a relaxing experience. I was dismayed to realize that I would not beat the sun’s scheduled departure.
But then, as if on cue, the truck in front of me suddenly pulled over to the side of the road, which seemed to point to an obvious solution. I could actually stop forward momentum and pause to experience the sacred moment when the activeness of the day is replaced by the quietude of impending nightfall.
I pulled over behind the truck and from the back seat of its cab, an elderly Hawaiian man gingerly stepped out. It wasn’t easy for him and it was clear that his body had the wear and tear of a life fully lived. It took several deliberate movements for him to step down, stand upright, and shut the door. As the ocean welcomed the sun sinking into its vastness, the elderly man stood in perfect stillness gazing. I felt at once calmed by his presence and excited as the cloudless sky promised the strong possibility that the elusive Hawaiian green flash—a momentary flare of green glow caused by light refracted by the atmosphere—might make an appearance at last rays.
As day diminished and we were indeed treated to the crowning jewel of a green flash, my heart was replenished by this reminder to savor the precious moments, to never take for granted the gift of another day, and to appreciate the beauty of what may be considered commonplace. I watched the elderly man making the same slow methodical movements to get back into the truck, and then I waved and nodded my head as I passed by, as a gesture of appreciation for and acknowledgement of this gift of shared experience of sacred ritual in reverence of a sunset.
Is there something that happens daily in your life that you may take for granted? Maybe notice one thing, such as the scent of coffee brewing in the morning, your dog padding across the floor to greet you, or the emerging song of crickets at nightfall, and take a few minutes to savor and be grateful for the experience. Do this for seven days in a row and see how a ritual of taking note of the simple things can bring us the greatest sense of peace and joy, when we take a moment or two to have reverence for them.
Originally published in OmTimes (Oct 2015-A Edition)