Thursday, March 31, 2011
Thirty Days of Gratitude in the Home...Sunrises, Sunsets, and the noon-day sky.
Do you treasure the changing beauty of the sky? One thing I love about the sky is that no matter where you are, you can always see it. I love the country, and I love large cities. Sometimes, however, no matter how thrilling might be the city I'm in, I long for a bit of nature. When I crave to see some of God's handiwork, I know I can always glance upward. I am so thankful for even that glimpse of nature's beauty. (I hear that in Tokyo, even the sky is blocked from sight in many buildings. I've never had the pleasure of visiting that lovely city, so maybe someone who has experience of Tokyo can comment.)
I remember great sunsets the way most people remember great paintings. (I'd remember more great sunrises if I always rose before dawn!) One gorgeous sunset that I think of with gratitude was one that I saw early in my marriage. My Beloved Engineer (aka my husband) and I were living in Texas and we were driving down what was then a country road from one town to another to attend Wednesday night service. We passed a ranch with a huge black windmill that was thrown into striking silhouette against the red-saturated sky. (There I go with windmills again!)
One thing you can say about that part of Texas is that the flat land and limited tree growth ensures that you not see the sunset. In fact, you don't just see it, you experience it. Though it is of course to the west, it seems as if it envelops you.
The most recent sunset I enjoyed was looking over Lake Michigan from a park on Michigan Avenue in chilly Chicago. My Beloved Engineer, my Song Bird (aka my daughter), and her Dear Movie Maker (aka her husband) went to the park to watch the sun set and the moon rise. It was the day we were supposed to experience the unusually large view of the moon. Alas, the soft clouds over the lake covered our sight of the moon so that it looked like a soft, roundish, indistinctly shaped source of light behind the cloud cover. But, what beautiful clouds they were and how wonderfully they were reflecting the glow of the sunset, which was actually behind us.
My favorite of the dwellings where my Beloved Engineer and I have lived have had windows over the kitchen sink. I love to be able to look out and see the sky when I'm working in the kitchen. The house in which we now live is blessed with lots of windows, and I love being able to see outside so easily. The only place from which I can't see the sky is our tiny laundry room, but I fold my clothes in the kitchen so that I can enjoy the light.
Once, on a dear friend's summer birthday here in my spot of the South, there was a spectacular sunset and unusual cloud formation. It was either right after or right before a storm. I can't remember which. But, I do remember exactly what the sky scape looked like. Now, I associate her birthday with such beauty.
When two dear friends of ours celebrated an outdoor, sunset wedding, I looked up and saw wild geese flying overhead. I was enthralled, because one thing I remember about geese is that they mate for life. This same couple also saw geese on their first anniversary. How beautiful!
I spent my first years in northern Florida, where the sky always seemed to have gold in it, even when it rained. As a child, I think I was most impressed with sunny skies, though I did love the way the sky looked over the ocean right before a storm. Now, I've grown to love all types of sky-scapes, including gray ones, rainy ones, hazy ones, sunny ones, clear ones, cloudy ones, ones that let down the snow -- all of God's paintings in the firmament. I wasn't overly impressed as a teen living in Atlanta when a kindergarten teacher turned weather lady always referred to cloudy skies as "gray flannel" skies. However, every time I see low-hanging, gray skies, I do think of being wrapped in a lovely gray blanket.
The only time I struggle to appreciate the sky is during the dog days when the haze hangs over us, and the weather forecast is the same for days and days and even weeks and weeks on end -- 90 degrees, humid, and no rain to relieve the heat -- just haze. By that time, many of us have lost the battle to keep our lawns and gardens at their freshest, and everything seems the faintest bit wilted. But making it through the dog days only makes it more delightful when the weather finally breaks a bit some time in late September. By late October, we enjoy warm, golden days with clearer, blue skies. The sun's rays illuminate the patches of brilliant reds, purples and gold that dot the green hills. Of courses, rainy days come, too, but they bring with them a feeling of being ever-so-cozy indoors.
It seems to me that sunrises are always more gentle than sunsets. Yet, there is nothing so lovely as the first rosy rays of dawn that softly infuse the dark night. They are welcome any morning. They are especially welcome after a hard night of sleeplessness, pain, or watching by a loved one's sickbed. My greatest joy in the early morning is the way the birds sing in the dawn. It makes me think of Psalm 68, which says, "Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy."
I think God, through David, is talking about people singing in gratitude for God's goodness. However, I like to think that everywhere the sun rises, the birds also sing for joy, along with us. Certainly, their song awakens in the human heart a glimpse of God's goodness and reminds us that we have good reasons to sing.
The songs of the birds become even more cheerful as the sun rises higher. Suddenly, it's fully morning, and the birds, still singing, flit happily about their work. In the South, we are blessed to have birds that make their home here year round, and, even, on a cold winter morning, the birds sing us into action. Still, how glorious it is when early spring arrives, even more birds come home, and the swelling chorus rings out through the clear skies.