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Sunrise, Sunset

Michael Dean Clark

This is the third in a series of thoughts on how place shapes and is shaped by the stories we tell. The first two can be found here and here.

According to George Washington Carver, “nothing is more beautiful than the loveliness of the woods before sunrise.”

As much as I love peanut butter, I have to disagree. Not completely. In an earlier blog, I concluded that sunrise is most beautiful in the mountains, but sunset is more beautiful over the ocean. Being back in San Diego, however, has reminded me of one of life’s true-isms: in a wrestling match, sunset on the Pacific beats sunrise anywhere over the head with a steel chair every time.

Don’t agree? Here are three reasons you should.

1. You don’t have to get early up to see it.

This isn’t a morning person/night person binary. It’s just common sense. I mean, seriously, early risers get everything – the worm, a quiet house, the best waves, an unfounded reputation for being go-getters. They also get a sense of ownership over the beauty of the moment, that self-serving pride that says “I deserve to see this because I set my alarm clock and didn’t ignore it when it went off.”

Slackers need a prize, and that prize is the most beautiful part of the day. We know we don’t deserve it. We know we’re unable to lay claim to having a hand in the experience. Maybe we just have a better understanding of grace because we have a much harder time convincing ourselves we should be given any based on our actions.

2. The death of color is always more vibrant than its birth.

Apologies to Robert Frost (and Pony Boy), but nature’s first green isn’t gold. (Irony alert: Microsoft Word’s grammar check identifies this version of his famous line as grammatically problematic. Guess humans are still better than machines at a few things even if one of those things is not winning Jeopardy). No, nature’s last gold is gold. Just before they die, greens give way to the deepest, richest colors. And so it goes with the sunset. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve watched the light of the sun coming up and thought “those colors are amazing.” I can count the same number of times I’ve uttered those words as the Big Orange dropped into the ocean in the last ten days.

3. The Green Flash.

If you don’t know what that is, it’s probably because you either haven’t spent much time in Southern California or you’ve followed the age old of wisdom of not looking directly into the sun. But out here, we do it anytime the day is clear and the water is calm on the off chance we’ll get to see fingers of green light splay out across the water just as the sun dips below the horizon. It’s a rare event, but when it happens, you know you’ve been given a gift (unless you were also up to see the sunrise that same morning, in which case you assume you’ve earned a bonus for working overtime).

I’m sure some of you disagree. Please do, in the comments section below. While you do, I’ll be outside watching the sunset.

Michael Dean Clark is the fiction editor at Relief, as well as an author of fiction and nonfiction and an Assistant Professor of Writing at Point Loma Nazarene University. He lives in San Diego with his wife and three children.