Nature raises and lowers the curtain

My friend Bill and I shivered in the predawn of a frigid winter day. We stood on a high cliff edge, facing east to watch the sun rise. A few stars still twinkled in the black sky when we arrived, but soon the first hints of lighter blue proclaimed that night was, indeed, retreating.

Slowly, the blues were joined by soft pinks that found wispy clouds drifting by. Across the lower sky were faint peach and lavender brush strokes, as if some celestial painter were experimenting and not quite sure which pigments to choose.

We watched the horizon intently, trying to guess where the sun would emerge. Suddenly, Bill pointed to one small area of brilliant orange-red.

First, a bright tip appeared.

The tip became an arc crowning a definite sphere as if that celestial painter had decided, "Yes, this is what I want." Now the glowing ball expanded quickly, rising like a helium balloon. Other colors diffused away like those of ethereal dreams chased off by awakening day.

Finally, orange-red became an intense yellow-gold - too brilliant to look at. It was full-fledged day in all its shiny brightness. Turning toward each other we smiled and sighed. Responsibilities beckoned, and we headed off to work.

As usual, the following hours were busy, filled with the routine stuff of life. Then, in the early afternoon Bill phoned. "Can you make it for sunset?"

That was an opportunity too good to miss. We were both able to carve out a chunk of time again.

A brief climb along a nearby wooded trail brought us to a hilltop that faced west. Once again we had front-row seats - this time for nature's closing. Slowly daytime brightness muted, changed to softer light. Lavenders, dusky pinks, and blues stained the gauzy clouds. Copper layered into bronze behind winter-bare trees.

The sun eased its way downward, melting into the horizon until only a final red arc remained. We watched in silence as day dissolved into nocturnal repose. Remaining bits of bronze sank away from sight. A star or two began twinkling.

"The sun moves so quickly now in the short days of winter," I said.

"The sun isn't moving," Bill replied. "We are."

Of course; I knew that. Every child learns how Earth rotates toward the sun and away from it. But often we tend to view life's events relative to ourselves, with everything revolving around us. Yet it is we, inhabitants of Earth, who traverse the days and seasons of our lives as we rise above the horizon and sink below it, through each dawn and dusk.

"Yes," I said. "We are moving. And it is quite a ride."

Bill smiled and nodded. We watched the last bits of color fade, as if the celestial artist were gathering up his paints and clearing up his sky canvas for the next day's art. And we, on planet Earth, prepare for our next day's journey.

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