Dwelling in Sunsets

This is the time you’d like to stay.

Not a leaf stirs. There is no sound.

The fireflies lift light from the ground.

You’ve shed the vanities of when

and how and why, for now. And then

The phone rings. You are called away.

SABBATHS 1998, Wendell Berry

 

We were in the basement organizing the boxes that I have repacked since our move just 4 months ago. Going through everything we own, getting rid of what no longer seems necessary, letting go of memories tied to objects we don’t need, not being sure about so many details of the big move we will soon make – I have been anxious and sad and angry and afraid and critical and inadequate. I haven’t shed but am entrenched in the vanities of when and how and why.

When I walked up the five steps from the underground room where I’d been sorting through my material life, I was confronted with the glorious sunset holding the beauty and promise of another day that had unfolded before me. I called Mitch to come up and see. He tried to capture the awe in this picture that, of course, you cannot do. I can only sense the presence of beauty and grace and promise at that moment when I pay attention.

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The next day, I attended the healing service and Eucharist at the Episcopal Church where our friend is the rector. When I entered the chapel, a stained glass image of Jesus with outstretched hands looked me straight in the eye. Looking directly into that face, I repeated the verse from Deuteronomy that I’ve been clinging to for months. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

This is the third move we’ve made in 2 years. I do feel displaced and distracted. We will stay in a comfortable efficiency Airbnb for 6 weeks when we arrive in Victoria until the house we are renting is available. As I close boxes, I realize I won’t see my own books, use my own coffee cups, or sit in my morning chair for a while.

This transition has been particularly challenging. I imagined when we bought our house 2 years ago that we were settling in for the long haul. When our house sold and we moved to this rental, I was both grateful and grievous. I unpacked only what was absolutely needed to get by for a few months. Over the last few weeks, we’ve reordered, given away, and sold stuff in anticipation for a new way of life; yet, the anxiousness about getting there and all I don’t know has plagued me.

Parker Palmer has a new book fittingly titled, On The Brink of Everything. I have only read the beginning pages but the title is enough right now.

The sunset I witnessed last evening was not the end. That breathtaking color was a prelude to rest, to let go of the anxiousness of the day and be grateful for another kind of dwelling place— in the moment when I am able to shed the vanities of when and how and why, for now. To rest in a place that is not tied to a particular house, or city, or job, or even stage of life. Parker encourages me to reframe the changes that come with age and experience as a passage of discovery and engagement, and I could add enlightenment,

Look around…see the courage with which so many live in service of human possibility. Old age is no time to hunker down… [it is] another word for nothing left to lose, a time of life to take bigger risks on behalf of the common good.

Sunsets speak. Maybe I can stay in these moments of beauty and awe—to dwell there even for a moment that encourages the rest and assurance I need when the phone rings again. The everlasting arms are underneath.

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