Sunrise, Sunset and Midshine – Hope, Faith and the Colors of Florida
By Kelly Dean
Of all the sights in Florida, the simplest, yet most beautiful has to be the sun’s daily ritual through the heavens. It’s rare for it to be cloudy all day, although it does happen frequently in summer. It’s also rare for you to miss seeing the sun at least once per day, and therefore, one sunrise or sunset. This special treat, twice per day, can humble you by its sheer magnificence. Even if you get into the habit of missing them, they will find you once again, and they will humble you.
Sunsets can surprise you. You’ll be taking a walk at the end of the day or driving to work in the morning and simply look up and there it is: God the painter, creating a work that is literally alive and calming. Many times I have been doing something mundane and looked up and suddenly had to stop, mouth agape and stare at the sky.
If you’re open to it, the sun can shed promise on a potentially cynical morning; it can make a tough night’s sleep seem trivial; it can fill you with hope; it can give you the strength of faith. It isn’t necessary to appreciate the sheer beauty, but it does give context.
If it’s a sunset, it can take the worries away, but you really have to open your mind and let the rays shooting through the clouds show you how trivial your concerns might be, how the vast array of colors show endless options and how the billowy nature of the clouds can soften the edges of a tired and damaged soul.
One should start with the sunset, not sunrise, because it is really the dimmer switch signaling release. It signals a transition from stress and obligation into the more dark and peaceful nature of nighttime – and ultimately, restful sleep. Everyone wears the shades of cynicism at times. It’s more comfortable to brush off beauty that to contemplate whether you are contributing some sort of beauty yourself. Or perhaps, that’s the great excuse. We simply can’t compare so why try?
There are many great painters of light, but none like God. I doubt He thinks of this daily task as a chore, because there’s just too much passion in the work. Mere mortal painters can capture the pinks, the oranges, the yellows and the blues and all that, but they can’t capture the silvers and the golds – and the depth of dimension that tells you this isn’t a canvas. They can’t capture the balance. Only He can create the silver outlines in the clouds, the shooting streaks of light darting through every nook and cranny in the clouds, and decide which one looks the best and which one to save for another day. The blending is immaculate – as they should be, transitioning one color into another in a way a mere human painter might never attempt. Silver into purple? Sharp and circular lines intersecting? Who would think of that?
We must remember, this all starts with a gassy ball out in space, simply burning like a flashlight: its simple job is just to provide light. It is the paintbrush delivering paint to the canvas. But it’s what happens when that light hits the earth that makes divinity seem feasible, because it’s untouchable yet very visible if you take the time to notice. Doubter or faithful, it is the essence of God. Try to create a sunset with a bowl of water, some steam and a flashlight. I think not.
And there I stand mouth agape — as usual.
It isn’t an easy job for the sunrise in the morning. Like most of us, we are getting ready for a day we have already preconditioned before starting. So the sunrise knows its job is a tough one from the outset. The sunrise picks up its robe it left bedside at sundown, and using a slightly different palate, begins painting hope and faith without saying a word, without interrupting the sound of nature, without the clacking and clamoring sounds generally associated with building something beautiful.
Instead, there is a subtle soundtrack that goes with sunrise. If you’re blessed with an ability to hear, you will notice the birds. The sunrise knows most folks are getting ready for work and way too busy to stop and notice God’s painting to introduce the day, but that’s OK, because the surprise factor is still there. While you’re thinking about contracts and parent-teacher conferences, wham! To your amazement, a flaming red sky appears over the bridge driving to work. You nearly wreck because it so breathtaking. The sunrise does with gold what the sunrise does with silver: transforming them into something unimaginable. This is why artists become artist. If they have passion, they spend a lifetime trying to create the feeling one gets from being exposed to such natural ingenuity.
The sunrise tells us it will all be fine. Even the red ones seldom portend the foreboding people are supposed to associate with them. Instead they deliver comfort before a necessary change that must occur: a coming storm, whether in your life or during the course of the day, must happen, if for no other reason than to show us life’s contrasts. Otherwise, we can’t tell the good from the bad and can’t value the lessons from either.
Sometimes, for no apparent reason, you look outside and the entire world has become pink – or yellow – or a neon-like green. These are the midshines, an invented word for when God simply decides to paint the earth, rather than the sky in the middle of the day. It’s like He’s trying out a different color scheme on the world before using it on the heavens. Midshines are usually associated with gathering clouds, so when rain comes, it is simply washed away and the normal resumes – the earth as a swatch – for only moments.
The grass, the trees, the water, your car, your shirt all take on a pink, or orange, or yellow cast at the expense of all other colors. You’re shocked and can’t help but feel like something is wrong – something bad is going to happen, but this is the natural reaction to the unexpected. It is another gorgeous event with its own special character: this is what the world looks like if you take a color out of the spectrum for a few minutes. It’s another stop and gaze moment because it’s also beautiful, and it illustrates that the world seems the way it is due to our perceptions. If you change just a few details, it can be completely different.
And such is the art — that reaffirms hope.