Admiring the scenery
I’ve enjoyed watching the sky my whole life. It’s always been fascinating, beautiful, colorful, moody… rarely has it been dull. Sunrises and sunsets are particularly interesting, especially with the dramatic changes over the course of a mere few minutes. But a late-summer sunset somewhere noteworthy seems particularly poignant.
Recently, I was on the Cape for a glorious Friday night sunset. Late-season vacationers had dragged their beach day out for hours. While some headed off for showers and dinner, many remained. They began shifting towards the west end of the beach. Their energy from earlier in the day had shifted to mellow happiness. Couples walked barefoot or in flip flips, hand in hand. Moms held babies and dads hoisted kids on their shoulders. Everyone spoke more quietly.
For all the frenzy that people’s days can hold, and as much as people can get lost in their own heads and lives, people seemed to unconsciously form as a group, with a common interest and mood.
The summer’s end brings not just a change in the weather, but also a change in focus and in routine. Seeing people taking time to appreciate a moment became as interesting to me as the sunset itself. They were actively taking time and energy to convert that moment into a memory; a shared one, in which they embrace their lives and their shared moment.
This, to me, is as good as summer can get.
Now sporting flip flops on the weekends.
As the seasons change, progress can often happen slowly. Much of this spring has been unusually cold in New England. But Memorial Weekend started off hot and sunny.
As the unofficial kickoff to summer, it was well-timed. The weather gods rewarded my patience with a warm, glorious sunrise. The morning allowed me the chance to return to my summer flip flops, which I kicked off as I traipsed around the shallows at low tide to snap some photographs.
Perfect days aren't the norm, so they're meant to be relished. I dutifully worked to make the most of the day, from sunrise until the outdoor fire burned low well after dark. In between were some great moments heralding the start of summer vacation season: beach, boats, BBQ... I can't wait to see where these weekends take me (often still in my flip flops).
Dreaming of the warmth and colorful splendor of springtime
For vacation areas, such as the ocean, mountains, or lakes, the tourist season is filled with a happy energy, and a lot of people. The off-season is a different experience: solitary instead of social; calm instead of excited. The sounds of families or boat engines are replaced by seagulls or snowshoes.
These vacation areas are easy to overlook when out of season. But, to me, this is the time to enjoy these areas in a whole new way: you can travel further without hitting traffic and find new restaurants; you can shop in stores that are open without needing to move sideways down crowded aisles; you can stroll along the water without meandering around beach chairs. You have much more of the place to enjoy as you choose.
Off-season trips are a great way to see a favorite area in a new light. This not only can keep it fresh, but can also deepen your appreciation of it.
Recently, I stood on a bridge, overlooking a river flowing out to the ocean and butting up against an incoming tide. The sun hadn't yet cleared the horizon. The trees were bare and the summer homes were shuttered. No cars drove by. The only sounds were the water, the sea gulls, and the breeze. It was the first morning of Daylight Savings and the first with a warm and gentle wind that felt as if spring's arrival could be counted in days or, at worst, weeks. But not months. In an oceanfront community, this first day that feels like spring only happens once each year - and only in the off-season .
I'm not the creepy guy lurking around; I was here first!
A couple days after Thanksgiving, I strolled alone in the pre-dawn light, on Maine's southern coast. I'd already taken a number of photos over the prior few days. I was wandering along the beach before finally finding an area in which the water of the outgoing tide was still just deep enough to reflect the sun once it crested the horizon. Plus, the large rock in the middle of a tidal pool might catch the soft glow of the early light or reflect off the water.
Liking this spot, I sat on a boulder, waiting patiently for the sun to make its appearance. Just a few people scattered themselves up and down the beach, mostly alone and giving each other their space. But, I noticed one couple gradually moving closer. Eventually, I realized our paths would cross, and worried it would impede my photo.
However, when the couple reached the water seeping seaward from that small tidal pool, they paused. I stopped lining up my photo on my iPhone, instead studying them through the screen.
The man let go of the woman's hand and looked at the water a moment. He picked his route, tiptoed quickly and delicately across, and turned back to face her. She hesitated, and turned to look at the ocean as if contemplating whether to enjoy it on opposite sides of the receding tidal pool. That's when I snapped a photo.
She then followed his path, where he waited to again hold her hand. Reunited, they resumed their casual journey down the beach. His finding a safe route across and to waiting patiently for her, her trust in following, and their holding hands all were small acts. But they also were insights into their relationship: a couple in love, each better because of the other; willing to help and to trust. In its own brief way, it was a much more intimate and beautiful moment than the sunrise that quickly followed.
Appreciating old buildings while they still stand
My favorite mountain biking trails are luckily not far from home. The drive is quick but passes a couple of farms, apple orchards, and climbs a hill with a great view. A minute before the trail head stands this small, old barn. It's nothing major: a couple of stalls and some other stall or room on the far end. But it exudes a pleasantness. It's quiet, off the beaten path, somewhat forgotten, worn-down. I sometimes drive slowly past, wondering about its past, how old it is, and what its future might hold.
This summer, I saw the field behind it suddenly piling up with truckloads of clean fill. And when riding on the edge of the trails near this field, I saw clear-cutting well into the woods. So, sadly, a neighborhood of McMansions will apparently be erected, and this barn's days are numbered.
As autumn progresses and another riding season winds down, I won't drive that road much longer. So, on a recent cold morning, I decided to head up there for a sunrise. Sipping my coffee in the crisp air, and watching the sun break over the horizon on the far side of the field, I enjoyed the moment. This barn has stood for decades, been disregarded by an overwhelming amount of cars passing by, but is actually beautiful. When you stop and study, it has great grains in the untreated wood, character from the neglect, and colorful trees on the far side of the field. When the sun shone through the wood boards, it completed a picturesque but solitary moment. I don't know if it will remain next spring, and everything has a shelf-life. But I know I'll be glad that I chose to not drive by it this time, instead appreciating it and that moment.
The Good Life...
is filled with little snippets of time that can disproportionately impact our days. This is a chance to capture and share them.