I’ve seen literally hundreds of sunsets over the ocean. There aren’t many sights that can compare to the sun slowly drifting under the water, splashing the sky with its vibrant oranges, soft golds, and dusty pinks as it goes – and occasionally, the green flash gracing the world with its presence.
Tonight gave all those sunsets a run for their money. Though there was no ocean involved (the nearest one being about 140 miles away), it didn’t make the sight any less beautiful. In fact, it was a different kind of beauty to see this happen over a horizon of trees instead of water.
I got to the track tonight about forty minutes before sunset and immediately realized I had left my iPod at home. One of the only times I listen to music while running is when doing speedwork because it helps me to focus on each step of the run and keep a steady pace. I didn’t consider going back for it, though, because that would have put me on the track well after sunset, and when the track doesn’t have lighting, that’s not usually a good idea. Instead, I figured it would be an exercise in mental discipline to keep focused on my pace without the fast beat of the music.
After a warm up mile, the sun slowly started to set, and this was a process that occupied about my mind for the next three and a half miles. This particular sunset didn’t feel real. Instead, it seemed like it had come straight off the ceiling of a basilica in Italy somewhere. I half expected to see the hand of God coming out of the clouds, almost as it does in The Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel.
The clouds were so perfectly formed and each wisp looked like it had been intentionally placed there. As the sun set, it didn’t just sink lower and lower into the horizon, but it instead light up the entire sky, providing a backlight for the clouds and shooting brilliant golden rays into the rest of the sky. At one point, as I rounded the bend in the track and was affronted with the sight yet again, I thought it looked like the sky had opened up like a chasm from an earthquake, and all the rays were streaming out through it.
I could go on and on, but words will never quite capture that sight. The best part was, I got to fully experience it for my entire run, with nothing else to distract me. The entire time, I felt such peace. So much so that it reminded me of how I first fell in love with running – moonlight runs with only the stars above and the Pacific beside me to keep me company. During those runs, I felt as one with the sky, the ocean, the breeze – all of it came together and welcomed me into the fold. Though it’s years later and so much has changed, today, with the sunset framing every step, the breeze rustling the leaves, the air brisk and clear after a solid day’s rain – today felt the same. It felt like all was right in the world, and all was right with me. Peace and pure joy were present on that track tonight.
A while back, a friend of mine told me a few reasons why he had such a wonderful day. He ended by saying, “Perhaps God’s hugs feel like yesterday,” and that phrase has stuck with me. Today, on this gorgeous first day of fall, I think God decided to soften the blow of summer’s sweet end, and to do so, he gave me a great gift: a giant bear hug.