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CHASING DOWN THE MUSE:Memories made of sunsets

The sun sets in a pool of salmon colors. Soft blue on the water and a violet edge that drifts toward pinks.

Memories are triggered by the sunset of other brilliant skies. When I was 18, I moved to Sunset Beach, Hawaii. Laguna girls Val Iverson and Sue Klaasen had also made the journey. Together we lived in a house on the point rented by Kenny Bebbs. My “adopted" brother Victor had provided the introduction.

Sue and Val had arrived earlier and they shared a bedroom. My sleep spot was on the hallway floor, but it never bothered me. Outside "” the sea, the sky, the coconut palms, papayas and guavas "” was paradise, and I was part of it.

Hawaii was to come and go in my life as travels and income dictated, but the months of living on that point had an affect that would influence the rest of my life.

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First, we lived WAY out in the country "” about as far from city life and city things as a person could get, if not by miles, then at least by proximity. Cane fields lined the sloping hills and poor neighborhoods best described the area.

Surf was everything, and I mean everything. When there were waves, we were in the water. When there weren’t waves, we were in the water. The rhythm of days evolved around the cerulean blue bay of Sunset Beach. If it wasn’t a surfing day, it was a paddling day.

Besides the water, the continuity of our lives was marked by the sunset. No matter what was the business of the moment, when the sun began to lower on the horizon, everyone stopped what they were doing and gathered together on the sea wall. Silently, we sat watching waves and shifting colors, and consciously witnessed the end of a day.

What a glorious gift to ourselves and to one another. We celebrated a day lived, and acknowledged the shift of day to night. We embraced the fluid rhythms that coursed through our individual and collective bodies.

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How often now do we give ourselves that same gift as we race from here to there? Sunsets come and go. Do we notice? Suddenly day is night. Do we remember the exchange?

When I am at my home in Mexico, I am blessed with the opposite coastal experience. Situated on the Sea of Cortez, I rise each morning to quietly witness the shift of night to day.

Darkness becomes twilight. Stars hide in the light of building day.

Pink and gold replace indigo in a reverse of sunset skies.

Perhaps, what’s gnawing at me is a growing recognition of the need to stop more often. Turn off my engine. Shut down my critical thinking machine. Put down the do-list and simply be present.

Sunrise and sunset provide the perfect venue for being in the moment. Attention is easily shifted. Focus is simultaneously narrowed and expanded. We see and hear intensely.

Can we train ourselves to stop in the midst of our rush and go behavior to savor the color of light? Can we open ourselves to our experiential senses as we helter-skelter tumble through?

Was that our neighbor smiling as we quickly pulled out of our garages? Did we hear the innocent giggle of a small child? And the whir of a hummingbird’s wings?

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Research continues to show the source of most illnesses can be attributed to stress. While we acknowledge this, we tend to do little with the information, other than search for a new pill to fix the sicknesses that we have brought on to ourselves.

I am as guilty as most. Since I am my own boss I tend to work through weekends and holidays. I forget to take breaks.

And so it was of great surprise, to myself and my family, that this Labor Day weekend I declared a moratorium on work. No computer screens to garner my attention. No phone calls to check on clients or jobs in progress. No e-mail exchanges.

Instead of work, I read. I lounged on the deck, cool under the umbrella with a glass of icy lemonade. I watched the sky and the sea. I even wandered downtown Laguna as if I were a tourist. I allowed myself to be present, unencumbered, and savored the deliciousness of each moment.

The weekend’s finale "” and of course, back at the grindstone "” is the watchword for the short work week. I intend, however, to hold those sunset colors, to wrap those hummingbird wings inside, to look up from my work and feel what the moment has to offer.


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