One evening when I was about seven years old, Grandma O. (my mom’s mom) and I were admiring the sunset from her kitchen window while she washed dishes at the sink and I ate a snack at the table. The black outline of the trees in her back yard and the neighbors’ yards behind hers sharply contrasted against the pale orange sky.
“That’s a pretty sunset,” I said, after taking my first glance of it.
“It is,” Grandma said in agreement. “God paints the sky every evening.”
By some people’s standards of beauty in nature, it did not have the wow factor that many other sunsets have had, but to seven-year-old me, it was pure beauty. I didn’t know it at the time, but that evening was the first of many when the sunset would grab my attention and take my breath away. I never forgot Grandma’s words about God painting the sky, and the more I’ve pondered those words over the years, the more I appreciate the beauty of sunsets and see how creative of an artist God is. (The same could be said about sunrises too, but I’m not always awake early enough to see them.) As I grew up, I wouldn’t hesitate to stop and stare at sunsets that I thought were particularly striking and attempt to take in every detail of their beauty. Sometimes I would write about them in my journal, but my attempts to capture and record what I saw–striking hot pinks, calming pale blues, soothing lavenders, shimmering clouds, beaming rays of light, the fiery red-orange sun, and (finally) inky black with twinkling stars–were always futile.
When I was 13 years old, my mom gave me my first camera. Neither of us knew that I would use it primarily to photograph sunsets, but it’s not surprising to know that now. Capturing a vision on film is much more feasible than trying to describe it in words on paper. I tried capturing as many sunsets (and sunrises) on film as I could over the years from as many places as possible, and was deeply disappointed on those few occasions when the film didn’t develop a picture at all. I knew that I had only one evening to attempt to take a picture of that particular sunset; I would never see it again.
The more I think about what Grandma said about God “painting the sky,” the more I see how creative He is. The sky He made is the ultimate canvas, and He brushes strokes of various colors across it however He likes. He lets us in on this aspect of His creativity twice a day: sunrise and sunset. No two are alike. Each masterpiece in the sky is unique to the time and day that He gives us the opportunity to see it. They are in town for one morning or one evening only. Not only that, but from start to finish, they constantly change. The changes are barely noticeable from minute to minute, but from one half hour or so to the next, it’s obvious that the Artist is still at work on His piece, and that it’s all part of His design. All of those subtle changes take place so that the art can fade away into darkness to make way for the next painting.
Grandma left us for heaven one year ago tonight. As I watched part of tonight’s sunset from the deck door a few hours ago, I thought of the conversation that she and I had 22 years ago. Tonight’s sunset of pale blue and pale orange didn’t take my breath away like others have in the past, and much of my view was blocked by the the numerous trees in the woods that haven’t lost their leaves yet. Like the sunset I saw from Grandma’s kitchen window when I was seven years old, this one wasn’t particularly bold or striking, but it was still beautiful in its own way. It was still a piece of art created by the Master Artist, and this piece was on display for one night only. I’m thankful to have seen it.