Full Circle: Sunset

After our recent workshop in Cumbria, we took the last of our companions back to Castlerigg for the sunset. It would be our third visit of the day…and three is a magical number. The three gentlemen who had been there that morning, and who had joined us then as we greeted the dawn, had also returned at dusk. They stood silent as the three of us joined hands and sang the sunset and then we introduced ourselves.

Six people, from thousands of miles apart, joined in a moment of unity, sharing the magic of place and time. Our backgrounds vary, the beliefs in which we were raised are different, the paths we have chosen are diverse… and yet, in that moment, we shared peace. Nothing mattered beyond the bond created by the Light within.

Image courtesy of Wayne

We shared an impromptu ceremony, and one of the gentlemen, who follows a shamanic path, spoke the words of a native American blessing.  It was perfect for the moment, and, later, seeking the words of the prayer online, I came across a Lakota prayer that I found beautiful in its all-embracing simplicity.

Great Mystery,

teach me how to trust

my heart,

my mind,

my intuition,

my inner knowing,

the senses of my body,

the blessings of my spirit.

Teach me to trust these things

so that I may enter my Sacred Space

and love beyond my fear,

and thus Walk in Balance

with the passing of each glorious Sun.

The prayer begins with trust… something we seem afraid to do far too often these days. We do not trust ourselves, let alone those around us. We seek the reassurance of approbation, rather than trusting heart, mind, body and spirit. But one line stood out for me more than the rest: To love beyond my fear…

For Christians, this season celebrates the birth of Jesus, who loved beyond fear and who taught “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The Solstice celebrates the moment when the year turns from dark to light… as we would if we could ‘love beyond fear’.  It matters little what beliefs we hold, there is something in these words worth considering.

If we trust, and love beyond our fears, we may end up disappointed. If we choose to live in fear and distrust, we start from that position, leaving no place for light and hope.

As the sun set over Castlerigg, the casual observer, had there been any, might have seen half a dozen hippy-types holding hands and doing ‘weird stuff’ in a stone circle. Within the circle, strangers came together, in a moment of grace, offering and receiving blessings, in love, trust and acceptance… and it was beautiful.

Here and now

The problem with living in a downstairs flat is that there is no upstairs. This may sound obvious, but when you have lived in a house almost all your life, with an upstairs, you tend to forget. Many times I have grabbed my camera to head for the upstairs windows, only to realise that the couple who life up there might, possibly, object to me barging in unannounced every sunset and dawn.

My home is on a roughly east-west axis. Just sufficiently ‘off’ to mean that in summer, I can watch the sun rise from my pillow without needing to move. In winter I see the dawn through the garden doors that are, inevitably, already open for the dog.

Sunsets are a bit more problematic. The curve of the houses in my street and the rooftops opposite my kitchen window block most of my view. I get only the spreading colours as the light fades… which is where the upstairs would have come in handy. A little more height and I could see so much.

Yet, as I stood on the doorstep tonight, watching vivid pink and gold soften the sky, I realised how lucky I am to be able to watch the day begin and end, in glowing colours or beneath a pall of roiling clouds,  every single day. City dwellers seldom see much of the skyline and, when work takes me early into town, I miss the dawn as it hides behind the rooftops.

It may be natural to wish for things that are seen, but just out of reach or it may be the way we are conditioned by our society from the earliest age to aspire to ‘something more’. ‘The grass is always greener’ and all that…  But all that happens is that in looking beyond what is to what could be, we shift our focus away from the moment in which we stand and fail to appreciate what it offers. Not only that, but we create dissatisfaction for ourselves, a pressure for change for the sake of change and the stress of always chasing an illusive and elusive ‘something’ that we hope will be better than what we have. How often do we truly look at what we have in gratitude, not with some indefinable yearning?

Does it really matter that I see ‘only’ a sky suffused with colour and not the whole sunset? I could change that… a walk to the fields would give me an unobscured view, but it would take time and effort… a commitment and an active choice. Wishing alone will not get me from here to there… but I need do nothing at all to be here and now.

Every day is different, every dawn and dusk offers new wonders… and it does not matter at all where I am or where I stand. It matters only that I look up and see it as it happens.

No time at all

P1160237

What colour is the sky?

I watched the sun go down tonight from the roadside. For once, the camera had not come with me… I was just driving to the shop and didn’t pick it up. Even so, I cursed myself for leaving the camera as I saw the huge, golden orb shot with crimson reflected in the rear view mirror. Too late to turn and go back, the sun would have gone by then… but maybe, just maybe, I would be home in time…

No. Halfway home it was evident I wouldn’t make it, so, camera or not, I pulled over to watch the setting glory of a summer’s day.

It took only a couple of minutes for the last of the blue to fade through a rainbow of colour to a molten sky, aflame against the silhouetted trees. Almost as if the sky was clothed in the colours of the School…I couldn’t help but smile.

It was the speed of those final moments, though, that struck me. In the space of just a few heartbeats dusk became sunset and night swallowed the earth. The change came with incredible swiftness and was complete.

It made me think how fast our little planet is spinning, unnoticed by we who live and breathe her air. Hurtling through space around the sun at around 70,000 miles an hour, rotating on its own axis at around a thousand miles an hour at the equator… and we are so habituated to that movement we never notice. Yet, we get motion sickness in a vehicle….

Our eyes and brains process light that hits a speed of 670 million mph…and we don’t bat an eyelid at that constant miracle. Our field of vision seems infinite… even I, short-sighted as I am, think nothing of glancing up to say hello to Orion,  capturing in my gaze light which left the nebula nearly 1350 years  and nine trillion miles ago to meet my eyes tonight. Some of the stars I see no longer even exist!

Yet I have trouble getting to grips with things when I speak friends from ‘the future’ in timezones across the world….

Odd, isn’t it?

We live our lives against the backdrop of an enormity of time, yet it often seems that all we know can change in a heartbeat. A single moment, a scintilla of time, and life can be transformed, becoming unrecognisable, both for better or for worse. It can be a small thing that changes a mood, moving a day from sadness to joy, or it can be the bigger events that upheave a lifetime.

Just like the movement of the earth, we often don’t even notice how these changes begin. Or even at all. Sometimes we think we can trace them back to a particular and pivotal event, if we look… but it is hard, if not impossible, to untangle the skein of a lifetime, and the further you try and trace an event’s beginning back to its roots, the more apparent it becomes that you cannot do so, for each event is dependent in some way upon the ones that preceded it and brought you to that point in time.

We cannot alter past events and the future is unscripted… which leaves us with now, this moment, this scintilla of time, in which to change our worlds. And we do so. All the time. And don’t even notice.

I deliberately took time to watch that sunset. It is something that happens every day, something that has happened over my head 20,778 times since I was born and which I seldom consciously take time to watch. I have to ask myself how many of those days of my life I have missed, simply by taking them for granted and not drinking in each moment in full awareness of the possibilities they hold, not living with a passion.

Tonight the sky was a rainbow veil that turned to a sea of molten gold. I never want to take that for granted again.