The western sky is aflame. I sense it before I see it, in the coral tint of the empty plates on the dinner table.
Later, after the final “Good night! I’ll see you in the morning!” I come downstairs, and find my comfortable shoes. I slip out the front door with a nod of blessing from Y, drawn by the melding symphony of color in the west.
The sun burnishes to my left as I walk. But the reflection of its splendor in the neighbors’ windows is more arresting than the long horizon glow: one square pane highlights a cluster of scarlet clouds; a tall sash perfectly frames a light-gilded tree against the blushing sky. Take in the view piece by piece, they seem to say.
It’s summer dusk, and the phrase makes me think of the honeyed fragrance of ripe peaches, and childhood nights when I would fall asleep to the sound of basketballs bouncing in the amber-and-violet-bathed condominium courtyard.
Our little family has been wandering sun-soaked lanes for the past few weeks. We’ve roamed the aisles and shelves of a favorite old bookstore. We’ve gone “swimming” in seven inches of water at a splash park. (Afterward I smiled to myself as I drove; all three of my favorite passengers nodded off to sleep, two of them in open-mouthed glory.) We’ve hiked up a waterfall trail, explored lush rows at the nursery greenhouse, and searched out classic diner fare for breakfast.
Our activities don’t always feel as leisurely as they sound in a list like this, but many times I’ve drawn a long breath, right in the thick of a nascent memory. What a gift that we get to do this.
My favorite moments happen at home, after the adventures, when we’re clustered around the kitchen table. I watch the girls enjoy their very first bite of queso; Y slices up watermelon in a dozen ways, each making the sweet fruit taste slightly different.
We smile at each other over their heads — how did we arrive here again, this boy and this girl and these two small daughters? — and I catch our reflection in the dimming glass door.
For one ephemeral moment we are etched in that window, framed in white. One vivid scene in a cascade of years. Perhaps this is the summer our children will remember when they are grown and the sun slants low at the end of a golden day. In my own mind, I hear echoes from other cherished summers: my father as a young boy on a small island, savoring abalone; my mother as a little girl playing Korean jacks with neighborhood children until sunset; a boy we sponsor in Ecuador who exuberantly draws us pictures of soccer — soccer balls, soccer games, soccer heroes. We don’t need much to celebrate the warmth and abundance of life.
My little family is a far distance from Korea and Ecuador and the bluet-filled Appalachian valleys of my own small days, but these memories overlay our fresh ones tonight, as if to say, we’re still here. All those whom I love, and am learning to love.
For them, as well as for myself, I see the deep need to hold on to what is worth remembering — to defend and preserve these summer silhouettes of connection and of real delight. Each one reminds me that we all have an appetite for greater joys.
Here in this slim space between daylight and eventide, help me to see the length of my time piece by piece. Engrave on my memory the twilit outlines of each life with whom I share this brief frame, that I may know how to live alongside them, how to intercede, how to champion what is true and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable as a refraction of the returning King.
How to make the most of the fading light.