I’ve been settled in at the new art studio here in Long Beach, WA for about a week now. I had to spend more time away than I would have liked; the move from Portland happened in multiple stages, only one of which involved the convenience of a moving truck. And just as I got the new place all set up to my liking, I had to leave again to go vend at an event. Four nights I was gone, missing the sound of the Pacific rushing up against the beach and the sight of marsh hawks soaring over the dunes.
But now I get to be here for a couple of weeks straight, for the most part alone. I’m looking forward to the chance to get to know the rhythms of this place a bit more. I’ve had glimpses over the past month as I’ve slowly settled myself into a place that hasn’t had human inhabitants for years. The tides are easy; they’re charted and I can tell time by them. The crows also have their comings and goings, and some evenings I can watch them flock in the trees to the east as the sun sets. The deer are a little more capricious; I might stumble upon a doe while running up and down the long gravel driveway, or see her bounding at a distance over the dunes. I’ve yet to see the elk or black bears that are said to visit every so often.
The dusk skies have been a mix of palettes–some vibrant swashes of orange and blue silk with splashes of yellow, some the gray of rain-soaked cement. When it looked like there’d be a decent show, I’d walk down to the beach to watch as Sol bedded down for the night. More overcast evenings saw me stay warm and cozy at home.
Nothing is to be taken for certain, not even the sunset. Today has been full of clouds. At suppertime stratocumulus hung low in the sky, drifting by like great and shaggy wild sheep. Once the dishes had been put away I went to go turn on the light by the bay window that looks to the west, and my eyes were drawn to a slash of rose low over the horizon.
Captivated, I stopped and settled into the papasan chair. In just moments the rose intensified, and played over the backs of the cloud-sheep as they meandered south, til it almost touched the roof of the house. It illuminated the soft edges of the sky, and I noticed patterns where before I’d only seen flat gray. I expected it to fade quickly.
Instead, the sun dipped through the slash in the sky, pink-orange and bright. Even as it slipped beneath the waves, it continued to cast its hue through the sky for over a half an hour afterward, the last hints of light stubbornly holding their line well after the rest of the sky had gone dark.
Now I look at the stratocumulus sky with new eyes. No longer do I sigh when the gray sinks nearly to the land. Instead I look at this subtle watercolor, with its pale silvers and deeper blue steel, and I appreciate what has been there all along. And so rather than merely being an admirer of the much-vaunted sunset, I am a skywatcher. Eyes that have spent decades watching the soil and the grass now take time to look up a little more often, and I learn a bit more about this place that I’m learning to call home.