During this pandemic there are few things that I do routinely. The most consistent thing might be the inconsistency on how I approach each day. While I do many of the same things or activities each day they happen at all sorts of different hours with varying intensities.
This might be seemingly at odds with the current situation – a pandemic-stay-at-home-quarantine situation that could lend itself to getting your stuff in order and make something of it. Instead I find that some days I am incredibly annoyed by the smallest of things. Having an entire day turned upside down by the simplest of gestures by someone over digital communication. Other days I feel ‘productive’- practicing some new skill, reading a certain percentage of my book on my Kindle, cleaning out the inbox from my old college account, or doing my laundry by hand with the courtyard hose.
By no means is it a terrible existence but it does feel somehow topsy-turvy AND completely monotonous at the exact same time. However, there has been one wonderful habit that I look forward to every single day, no matter what. Sunsets. No matter what I do, no matter what I’ve been doing, and no matter how annoyed I am, every day I make sure to stop and enjoy the sunset.
Sunsets are beautiful. Its often the subject of those silly get to know you questions. Do you prefer winter or summer? Cupcakes or pie? Marvel or DC? Sunrises or Sunsets? While the point of this is not to lay a claim that sunsets are better (but they are) I have used sunsets as a daily devotional of sorts during the past few weeks. Every evening I make sure to go outside, if I am not already there, and just sit and watch the sky light up. They are not all dazzling displays of color but even just the deep darkening of the blues and purples ushers in the night and sense of peace within me. When the clouds shimmer with the yellows and pinks of a stunning natural fireworks display it does something to me. It lessens the annoyance that may have been eating away at my mind. It relaxes my muscles after being tense for not “doing enough” that day. It makes me savor the moment – the amazing gift of life that I am experiencing, the immense amount of privilege to ride out a pandemic in the comfort of courtyard here in the Philippines, and most of all the beauty of our one world.
I would never and have never done this same daily practice when living back in the United States. In a new environment or even just a different environment we take the time to appreciate the splendor around us. How much richer is a sunset after a full day of vacation activities? Or if you have spent extend time abroad and like me all of a sudden, your entire phone is full of almost exclusively sunsets. Dozens of sunset photos from the exact same view from my library in Comoros are in my albums. But I also get complacent back home in Washington or Montana. I can just finish eating dinner, not get up off the couch watching TV, work or meetings need to end and more. While it helps that sunsets here in the Philippines are around the exact same time every thanks to living close to the equator it does make me a little sad to wonder how many more amazing evening skies I could have experienced.
Even as a self-diagnosed morning person I will never be awake enough times to catch every sunrise and I really enjoy that early morning cup of coffee before I get going. But I can enjoy a sunset. I can center myself in one of the most profound and yet simple devotions that I can commit to. I would encourage you to find a few extra sunsets these upcoming weeks. Savor the moment as you come closer to the creation we are all a part of.
Andrew Larsen serves with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.