A friend asked me recently if I could describe a sunset in one word.
Well, obviously not…
SUNSET WITH MATEY
My spine vibrates with the shudder of the car engine as it winds down from its long journey. Matey and I sit in silence, looking out at the beach. Not a lot of people out there today, this being the off-season.
The rare February sunshine glitters off the incoming waves like so many diamonds, and even with the windows up, we can still hear the demanding water as it rushes over the sand. It calls out to us, and we cannot resist.
I am the first one to get out. The wind immediately blows my hair into cotton-candy fluffs and tufts. Matey gets out, sees what has become of my hair, and laughs hysterically. “Yours doesn’t look exactly like you’ve just stepped out of a magazine spread either, my dear,” I chide gently.
Matey smiles, pushes back errant strands, and then looks out to sea again. I follow suit, and we find ourselves staring at our favorite monolith, Haystack Rock. So close to the shore that it’s easy to explore at low tide, the monstrous rock has welcomed us every year since our first visit.
“Care to take a stroll on the beach?” I ask.
“Well, of course. What would our weekend be without it?”
As we climb down the sandy, well-worn concrete steps, Matey’s weight on my arm is just that much heavier, more dependent, than it was a year ago. I smile sadly, recalling younger days, when we would both run down these same steps, heedless of whether we actually hit each one of them or not. We would race to the water’s edge, where we would tease the receding waves, daring them to catch our feet. Then we would run, screaming with excited delight, when the water would take our dare and chase us down.
Our first time here, together, Matey almost had me in the water. Only by chance and sheer strength did we avoid a frothy, wet, cold christening. However, we did seal our relationship with the first of many kisses. And those kisses have continued over the years, becoming more and more precious as we have aged. Many friends have passed from this world, and we are lucky to still have each other.
Just a few feet onto the warm, shifting sand, Matey stops. “Oh, this is far enough for now.” I am disappointed, but Matey’s health is not what it was. The wind whips through strands of hair that were once gold, but are now silver. Either way, they are treasures to be kept safe.
We get to the top of the stairs, feeling like we have just scaled Everest. After a moment to get our breath back, we remove our bags from the trunk of the car and make our way into the hotel.
Everyone smiles and greets us; they knew we were going to be here. Many have been employees at this same hotel for many years, and know us by sight. We come here as often as we can, and try to get our special room. When the kids were growing up, we rented two adjoining rooms, but that was many years ago. Our children have children of their own, who play on this very beach when school is out for the summer.
But this is our special weekend. Our anniversary weekend.
We open the door to our little room, and are pleasantly surprised by the champagne and flowers. It was so sweet of them to remember.
There was a time when, once the door to the room was closed, we’d draw the curtains and get re-acquainted with each other’s bodies for hours. Now we are drawn to the setting sun that shines through the plate-glass window. We can never get enough of sunsets anymore.
Matey takes out a sweater and opens the door to the balcony, while I pick up the champagne and the glasses. As I put them on the small table outside, Matey asks me to bring out the spare blanket as well. Cold legs can cause pains that do not go away easily.
Settled, we watch as the sun slides down past the top of Haystack Rock. Gulls fly around the rock’s craggy sides, fighting for a place to roost for the night. Some of them, more hungry than in need of rest, scavenge along the shores or fly along the walls of the hotels, seeking crumbs left out by careless guests.
One of these brazen lads lands on the unoccupied balcony to our left, and peers at us with one eye. Not finding any luck with that side, he flips his head to scrutinize us with the other. We laugh and shrug—nothing here, fella. He squawks and flies off, joining a small but growing number who have found a group of tourists wandering the shore with popcorn.
As twilight stretches itself across the water, it is getting harder to see the crags and cliffs on Haystack. The tide is coming in; the base of the rock has disappeared, as have most of the smaller boulders that sit at its base like silent acolytes.
The sky is changing to an orange-ish pink, as the sun starts to lower its toes into the ocean. The froth atop the waves is now a dull beige, the show being over for the most part. They will rest up and be sparkly for another audience tomorrow.
“Cap’n?” comes Matey’s voice. I glance away from the sunset to find a champagne glass nearly in my face. “You’ve let it go empty.” That teasing, chiding voice! It hasn’t changed a bit in fifty years.
Fifty years we have been Cap’n and Matey. We took a cruise on our honeymoon, and entertained ourselves by pretending we were the owners of the ship. Since I am older, I was “Cap’n”, which left Matey to be, well, Matey.
I fill both glasses, and we sit in silence as the sun continues to go down. Small sparks of light appear on the beach; fires, built by newcomers not realizing the rules against such things. There was a time when we would feign ignorance and do the same thing. I can’t blame them. To stay down on the beach at night, there must be some way to see, and to stay warm. Yet flying embers are also a danger.
Ah well, no longer an issue in our life. Sigh.
The sun stretches its rays towards the unfeeling clouds, holding onto them with all its colorful desperation. Its efforts spread colors fantastical and brilliant, glowing against the sky in awe-inspiring splendor.
We watch the last slip of sun go down into the sea, and we take each other’s hands. Another beautiful year, another beautiful sunset.
“I’m getting cold. Can we go in?” Matey’s voice whispers in the near-dark.
I tear my eyes away from the western sky, now going into blues and violets. I sigh inwardly and nod. “Certainly.”
We pick up the champagne, the glasses, and the blanket. I follow my beloved through the balcony door, then it is closed. We shut the drapes and put on a light, keeping the cold ocean night at bay. The dark swirls in off the water, but we are safe from its searching grasp--safe in the embrace of each other.
About the Author:
K.R. Morrison has lived in the Pacific Northwest for over 20 years. She moved there from California, after the Loma Prieta earthquake caused her to rethink her stance on “never moving again”. At her first sight of Oregon, she never looked back.
She wrote her first book, “Be Not Afraid”, after a nightmare she experienced would not leave her mind, even when awake. Before this book, she had not written much of anything, outside of the annual Christmas letter.
She has also co-authored a book entitled “Jesus Paid It All” with Ruthie Madison, and has recently been accepted as an editor with her publisher, Mountain Springs House. Book reviewing and blogging take up a lot of her time as well.
When not writing or working, she quilts or works in the garden.
She lives with her husband of over 27 years and a monster-sized cat, and is occasionally visited by her kids.
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