I’m sitting in the back yard watching the sunset, as I often do on a summer evening. Reduced to a soft red glow, the sun settles on the horizon near the place where a few days ago it made a turn back to the south at the summer solstice.
It takes about two minutes for the sun to disappear completely. If you watch closely, this is one time of the day you can actually see the sun move.
But of course, it’s not the sun but the earth that’s moving. To say the sun “sets” is to misrepresent what actually happens, and maybe that’s one reason why so many people think the sun goes around the earth and not the other way around.
Being a star-gazer since my youth, I’ve grown accustomed to viewing the earth as a planet spinning on its axis and moving through space. And so, I see the earth rotating to the east at sunset, carrying me slowly into twilight and into the darkness of night.
After sunset the earth’s shadow appears low in the eastern sky as a dark blue crescent. Above the shadow lies a pink band of light called the Belt of Venus.
Before twilight is well under way, Venus itself makes its brilliant entry in the west, shining brighter than any star.
Gradually the landscape vanishes into darkness, and my visual space expands immensely. A world that once ended at the horizon now stretches out to infinity.
Fields of grass and wheat give way to a field of stars. Storied figures appear, like glittering illustrations on a velvet sky. Breathtaking in its beauty, the summer Milky Way streams overhead in a river of phosphorescent light.
I am as familiar with the stars as I am with the flowers in my pasture. They are an extension of the near environment, and they add depth to my sense of reality.
Louise Halle, a naturalist who lived in Washington, D. C., referred to his city as “the hive,” but his analogy was wrong in one respect. Bees work for the welfare of the hive, and city folk often work against the welfare of their community.
This inability to work together is no more apparent than in the politics of our Capital, where no one can agree on anything. The government is withering like a tree without roots. Our leaders don’t know where they are going because they lost track of where they are and where they came from.
Meantime, the pace of life keeps accelerating. Reality is instant coffee, condensed milk, a bite of fast food, a 10-minute news clip, a dash down the freeway, a busy day at the office and dash back home again.
Life moves at a slower pace here in the country. Spring arrived pretty much on schedule, in spite of the late frost. The birds sang, the flowers bloomed and the leaves reached their fullness of growth. And it all happened without any help from Washington.
We had too little rain when we needed it, too much when we didn’t need it. Rain delayed the harvest, but my neighbor finally got his crop in. If he is an average farmer, as he appears to be, his crop yielded enough to feed me and about 150 other people.
Though I am not a farmer, I have a sense that my neighbor and I are working together. I value his important work and sympathize with his challenges.
My own challenges are less demanding, since the job of managing my pasture sanctuary was ceded back to nature. Mostly I’ve been battling lemon painted cup, a pesky weed that moved in a few years ago and seduced me with its handsome flower. Having a weakness for flowers I let it grow, and it has since overtaken the place.
Arthritis left me defenseless for two or three years and the weed gained considerable ground, but a knee replacement last fall gave me new energy and this year I’ve beaten the enemy back to the edge of my rather over-extended lawn.
Our harvest here is of a less marketable sort. Aside from the wildlife, we had some colorful patches of Indian blanket, evening primrose, skullcap, scarlet globe mallow, yellow coneflower, bush morning glory and an assortment of other wildflowers.
I guess you could say I cultivate beauty, and there is need for that too.
The ground feels solid where I stand. There is stability in the seasons, in the rotating earth, in the ceaseless cycle of day and night, and in the enduring rhythm of life. Anchored in the deep reality of space and time, I gaze up at the shimmering stars.
From my vantage point, I can see the constellations arrayed in panoramic splendor. The Big Dipper is hanging by its handle in the northwest, where it always is this time of the year, looking bigger and brighter and more beautiful than ever.
As they say in the real estate business, location is everything.
Richard Weber is a nature enthusiast living in Ellis County.