“Everyone of a hundred thousand cities around the world had its own special sunset and it was worth going there, just once, if only to see the sun go down.”
~ Ryū Murakami, Coin Locker Babies
Although sunsets happen everyday, as a hardcore city dweller, I don’t witness them too often. So when I do witness them, I am often mesmerized. The magnanimous shades of coral, blush and violet probably have something to do with it, but I suspect it is also something deeper. It is when time seems to slow down to draw out the moment at hand, whether it’s with someone else’s hand in yours, or with a few hundred strangers set to Latin music, or with absolutely no one around but nature’s embodiments. Sunsets are a reminder to pause to immortalize the fleeting complexion of time. Read ahead for some of my most memorable sunsets from around the world and the stories behind them.
HANDS HELD APART
Pigeon Point , California
Locking extremities with my husband watching the sun set over the Pacific a few months before we got married, I remember how the cold wind made us catch our breath. We were trying to stand as still as we could while shivering, as our friend tried to get this shot with his drone. My husband and I met in San Francisco where both of us lived in the heart of startup mecca over landfill that covers the ground between the ocean and the mountains.
14 months after we first met, as I stood there peering down the cliff onto the rough waves of the Pacific, and extended my hand toward him, I appreciated that he took my hand but left space between us. That was my hope for our marriage and life ahead; that we would successfully navigate it together leaving enough space for each other to evolve, just as the ocean and the mountain give each other space to create meccas in between them.
TRIPPING INTO HISTORY
Ta Prohm Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia
The sun was raging over us that day in Siem Reap. As our group went about our tour of the majestic temples embellished with faces of Hindu Gods and intricate filigree, marveling at the history that had passed through these structures in the last 1,000 years, our clothes clung to us and streams of sweat tributaries unabashedly dribbled down our faces.
In the age of Instagram where everyone is waiting for the perfect shot outside these ancient structures, my mind wandered to all the other reasons people might have stood near these shrines over the last millennium. Who came here to worship; what did they care about? Were they swimming in sweat rivulets as they walked the same ground? Were they as relieved when the sun sank down toward the horizon to relieve us of its grandiose presence?
THE PATH TWICE TRAVELED
This photo was taken on my second trip to Maui. The first time I was there was at the beginning of a new relationship that went on to fail just as spectacularly as it began. The second time I was there was with my boyfriend who later became my husband. We traversed a lot of the same ground, road tripping the road to Hana, watching the sun rise over the Haleakala crater and swimming in the ocean at Wailea.
But just because I had already traveled the road, didn’t mean the experience was the same. We almost always carry our past baggage into our future relationships, expecting the same crashes and burns that had left deep wounds behind. But when we travel what seems like a familiar road but open ourselves to an unexpected stop along the way, when we pull over to left the ocean breeze waft over the setting sun, we might be pleasantly surprised at what we encounter.
THE CALM AFTER THE STORM
Taj Exotica Resort, Maldives
We went to Maldives for our honeymoon after a whirlwind wedding in India. And whirlwind doesn’t even cover it; I was in a constant state of sleep deprivation and rejoicing being surrounded by all of our family and friends who had traveled across oceans to be there to celebrate with us.
When we arrived in the Maldives at our private lagoon-view villa on a private island, the exhaustion caught up to us even as we gasped at the immense beauty surrounding us. The following days were about doing nothing, and relaxing into it, a state not often part of our lived experience of rushing from some activity to another. But those few days, totally tired after our wedding, we just let ourselves be, and enjoy the sunset which we would likely never have caught back home.
YOUR TURN TO SHINE
Keys View, Joshua Tree, California
It’s a bit of a celebration when the sun sets on a desert, when you’ve spent a good chunk of the day under the relentless glare of the orb. Watching the sun set over the unceasing San Bernardino Mountains and Coachella Valley was a gift in itself but so were the millions of stars that came out of the sun’s shadows that night when it was their turn to shine.
Key West, Florida
Dozens flock to this place in the Florida Keys, the southernmost point of the continental U.S. where the sun sets over the warm Atlantic and the sky bleeds shades of orange. Key West is a place where life is languid and charming most moments of the day and the concept of time itself seems like an amorphous and even unnecessary concept. So it’s a bit jarring when time finds you, in time for the night to begin. Set to the Latin rhythms of the band at the nearby El Meson de Pepe or the country croonings of the Sunset Pier, watching the sun set here is one of the few times time means something.
YOU’RE HOT AND YOU’RE COLD
We were just ending a long day of cold hikes in the Icelandic mountainside and driving our camper van down the coastline to our next campsite. From afar, we spotted a spire of steam rising into the evening sky. Hot springs! We pulled our van over and there, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, away from a single human, was a makeshift pool brimming with hot sulfur waters from the depth’s of the earth’s layers. Soaking in the boiling waters, we felt the sharp concomitance of the boiling earth with the cold breeze looking out into the setting sun over the ocean. With no one around, we felt more intimate with nature, knowing every one of its forces – earth, wind, fire, water – was at work around us in those moments.