Just above the horizon the sunset looks like a kaleidoscope — light like diamond shards of glass moving left and right, up and down, changing shape at the whim of a giant hand. Even if I had no calendar, I would know it is October just by looking at the sunset.
A few nights ago the colors were warm peach wrapped in lavender and palest pink. And two weeks ago the sky was bright orange pulled like taffy across the purple of a deep bruise. Tonight sky throbs with mango and lemon and blood orange edged with indigo.
I am generally curious about such things. Things like what makes the colors in an autumn sunset, but tonight I am not. It is enough that the colors exist, that they drape themselves over my little piece of earth and invite me to stand still and marvel. Which is exactly what I do.
I also take a photo. I have no idea how it will turn out. I’ve grown accustomed to the idea that the camera on my cell phone — regardless of the claims of its manufacturer — will never capture the exact hue, the perfect clarity. There is no artificial lens in the world that produces what my very human, very near-sighted eyes produce.
Click. The image is saved to the smaller-than-postage-stamp memory card in the phone.
It is only later, when I am examining the photo to determine if it is social media-worthy, that I notice the sunset — the glorious, show-stopping sunset — is not nearly everything the camera captured. In the foreground is Owen, his nose to the ground, as entranced by some scent as I am by the sky. There is the wooden fence marking the corner of my parents’ yard, its boards leaning a little, sagging a little more. There is a field of plowed-up peanuts, the vines turned brown and brittle awaiting the picker. In the distance is Sandhill.
In just a few weeks it will have been 29 years since I moved into Sandhill, 29 years since I began the ongoing process of creating a home. I had one bed, a nightstand and a couch on order from L.A. Waters Furniture. No kitchen table, no desk, lots of books and a television antenna that picked up three Savannah stations and, occasionally, when the cloud coverage was just right, one in Augusta. There was no deck, no rocking chairs, no shed.
The holly trees that anchor the corners of the front porch weren’t there. The saw-tooth oaks and sycamore that now tower over the roof weren’t there. The mailbox, the hydrangeas, the bird feeders weren’t there. Not yet.
Staring at the photo I remember without wanting to remember — the table set for Thanksgiving; the Christmas tree in the corner of the living room; the faces of visiting friends, talking late into the night and waking to the creeping light of sunrise through the guest room windows. They all seem so far away in this strangest of years. And, yet, they are all right here with me, captured in memory. That, like the sunset, is also a marvel.
There is reason to believe that the end of life in the time of COVID is not yet. There is good reason to believe that, despite fervent wishes to the contrary, it will be a while yet before there are friends waking up in the guest room of Sandhill, rocking on the front porch, gathering around the table to tell stories and pass the peace.
I will not, however, pout. Pouting, I used to tell the little girls on my softball team, is neither attractive nor productive. (And, I might add, it is even less attractive and less productive in a grown woman.) What I will do, every chance I get, is stand in the middle of the dirt road and stare at the October sunset pouring itself out flagrantly over the tall trees and the wide fields and my own little house.