Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunset Boulevard

 or Being Willing to Be Moved

Loretta was a fount of good advice, all dispensed in a whiskey tenor.  Jabbing at the map with fingers yellowed by nicotine, she pointed out the cheapest gas stations and choicest views, the tourist traps and real finds.  She radiated no-nonsense, small-town westerner in a worn-to-softness plaid flannel shirt and faded blue jeans; her hair, an equally faded gray-blond, was feathered back 1970's-style.  She may have parked her 4x4 pickup truck in the closest parking space—the kind that really should have been reserved for guests—but she had the knack of a good concierge for steering travelers toward what they would most enjoy.

Loretta reigned over a little B and B in Williams, Arizona, one of the "gateway" communities to the Grand Canyon, and had probably seen every variety of tourist known to humankind.  She knew all the questions before they were asked, could spout the answers (and probably offer an appropriate brochure) in her sleep, and gave the general impression of not being easy to surprise or impress.  But when she found out I'd never been to the Canyon before, her face softened unexpectedly.  "I grew up here in Williams," she said.  "I worked up at Bright Angel Lodge right on the Canyon for years."  Her eyes looked off into a remembered distance.  "I've seen the Canyon all my life, and I've never seen it look the same way twice."

I've been thinking this week about that conversation from a couple of years ago, and about Loretta's willingness to be moved by a wonder she was so familiar with.  I was standing at the upstairs window, looking at a bright splash of sunset, and being a little impatient with it, as it was starting to interfere with dinnertime.  "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, it's not like the sun won't set again tomorrow," said a rather snide inner voice.

My own jadedness took me aback.  Just because the sky is omnipresent and unavoidable doesn't mean it isn't still amazing.  It's just as varied as the Grand Canyon under shifting clouds; the same view from the same window, day after day, isn't actually the same view.

So in a Grand Canyon frame of mind, I offer the following collage of roughly a week's worth of sunset photos, all (obviously) from the same vantage point.  Even the ones that are comparatively dull have their own character, their own statement to make on the quotidian fact of sundown.  (The collage is best viewed large—just click on the image.  For the record, I haven't altered the colors in any way.)

You're right, Loretta—you can look at it all your life and never see it the same way twice.


  1. Gorgeous! I had never thought about this. Makes me wonder what I've missed by being impatient with what is around me.

    The pictures are beautiful. Thank you for such a wonderful post!


  2. The top one is a detail from the bottom left?

  3. Thanks, Elaine - I'm always amazed at how much of what we look at all the time we just don't see.

    Diana - yes. It's a different shot, zoomed as much as I could and then cropped a LOT, but the same sunset.