I like sunsets. They’re a quiet time, the last few hours at the end of the day, when light gives way to the encroaching night. Every sunset is an explosion of all colors, a parade of vibrant life that stars bold and powerful with golds and yellows and oranges before trumpeting, teetering, tapering away into the quiets of red, silver, green, purple, and finally, the deepest of blue as the day tips its bow into the waiting dark. On cloudy days the sun lasts just a little longer, clinging to the backs of bubbling clouds, tall and towering against the fading sky. On clear ones the sky is more subdued, its colors fading faintly away into soft gradients of chrome, cool orange, fantastical pink.
Some of my most treasured memories are nothing but watching the sky at the cusp of sunset. I remember sitting on the windowsill of my bedroom window one evening, two weeks before migrating to the Philippines from Bangkok, my childhood home. The sky was empty that day, and a deep, deep red far away where the land ended, cool and muted like the calm acceptance of unavoidable endings.
There was another sunset down in Ticao Pass, West of the Bicol Peninsula. I’d spent the afternoon looking for whale sharks with my family. As the day ended I sat on the edge of the pier as the biggest sun I’d ever seen dropped over the edge of the ocean to an explosion of pink and gold and fiery orange, like the whole sky had caught fire, the bright blue of the day still hung above the sky above a line of cloud, all triumphant in the glory of that setting sun. I committed my life to conservation that day. I fell deeper in love with the planet. I wanted every day to feel as glorious as that setting sky.
And one sunny afternoon on a flight back from Mindanao I sat with my laptop propped up against the chair in front of me. I was halfway through an article, a feature I was working on for our farmers down in Lanao del Norte, when a glint pinged my eye through the airplane window. I paused and sighed and set my laptop down, and I pressed my head up against the window. We were passing through a cumulonimbus cloud, a great hammerhead, a column of cascading white that billowed up from the Visayan Sea below, boiling and bursting without the slightest sound as it reached up into the golden sunset above. I saw every line, every crinkle and every crease, sharp and illuminated as the light of the sunset caught upon it, as if it were desperate to stay, unwilling to go, content where it was as it danced atop the tips of that great pillar of endless cloud. We cut a half-circle around it, the tip of the wing banked over to the side, and I watched it as we went, unwilling to lose sight of it, caught forever in that one, brief moment of fleeting sunlight.
I like sunsets. Each one is like the last page of a chapter, be it sad and slow, bold and triumphant, quiet and content and calm in its descent into the night. I like watching them, because it’s a time to pause, a time to stop and take stock of what had just unfolded, what had become of the day. Each one is rich with meaning and yet made of none at all, mere tufts of cloud or tumbling colors against an empty sky, present and beautiful in its lack of words and punctuation marks. Splashed across the thousand colors of those last few hours of the waking day are pages and stories, punctuated by the vibrancy of life but filled in, ultimately penned and penciled in, by me and me alone.