Chasing the Sunset
Composition Posted: 652 words
I set off yesterday afternoon to chase the sunset. The sun was playing between scattered clouds – a nice change from all the rain we’d been getting – resting gently on the bare tips of the birch trees. It was close – nearly as if I could reach it – but the golden light faded a little for every second I walked forward.
As I walked, I slowed down in bursts: pausing, to wait and to listen. I listened for the birds and looked for the animals I expected to see. I wanted some taste of…something.
The ground was soaked, sitting amidst wind-beaten patches of brown grass. The wind curled around me and pinched my cheeks. I walked through the field, leaving the birches behind me.
For an instant I could see nothing but the path ahead of me. And the path was thin and beaten; I was the last man on earth: the only man on earth, ever. Then an apartment building poked its head into my vision and I remembered civilization.
There was a creek. It ran along the side of the field, churning and roiling from all of the rain. It had overflowed its banks; a few black, twisted trees stood tall in the brown, flowing water. The water was fast yet it was quiet. For a while, I sat on the riverbank and listened; hoping to catch, like Annie Dillard can, a glimpse of some ordinary creature and discover something profound about it.
But I sat and listened and heard nothing but the gentle bubbling of the creek, which I fancied was the splashing of a fish or a muskrat or something interesting.
I saw nothing but the flat stretch of the creek rolling by. I alternated between holding totally still and flipping my head quietly, trying to see something – anything – that was living.
Nature was throwing a party and I was not invited. Every time I turned my head, I was certain that animal and all things were dancing, celebrating their very aliveness in the middle of winter. But all I could grasp was that I was missing it.
That in itself was a comfort to me. I was missing it all: but it was there. One day – one day, I will see.
I stood up from the creekside and slowly retraced my steps, deflated. Wherever the celebration was, I had missed it. But at least I knew it was there.
I walked back to the path and returned slowly back to the hotel and civilization. Humanity did not yet exist again for me, even though it was now nearly within sight.
I chose to take a different path back from the way I’d come, and I came across a horse in a corral. That horse and I; we were the last living things on the earth. I wanted to mount him and ride after the sunset – chasing it forever. Never mind the fact that I can’t ride.
I whistled and the horse came to me. It was dusk by now, but I could still see his eyes, big and brown and warm. I petted him and talked to him about my dreams. In response he turned around and dropped a fresh paddy on the ground of the corral.
I didn’t care what he thought of my dreams, as long as he was listening. I walked along the length of the corral, and he walked beside me. When I turned back towards the hotel, I promised to come back the next day, and to bring a carrot or two to ensure that he would remain my audience.
Annie Dillard, in her book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, walks through nature, and philosophical thoughts and deep emotions spill out of her pen. I’m not there yet.
I talk to horses.
But I’m trying. I’m chasing the sunset. And one day – one day – I’ll catch it.