horizon and melt into it. And the size and
brilliance of this one seemed so rich and full -more like a setting sun in summer than the usual distant, cool seeming sun of late winter.
Within minutes of my arrival, it dropped below the shoreline across the river, as if sinking into the river. And it was so huge and fiery orange I imagined it disturbing the river like a fiery flow of volcanic lava does when it slips into the ocean, disturbing not just the surface but the deep currents silently journeying in the water’s depths. But that’s not what the sun did. It simply lowered itself silently, serenely, gracefully, to journey on along its eternal pilgrimage to bring light to the waiting world. As it slipped out of my sight, it was slipping its way into the sight of others waiting for morning to dawn where they were as night fell in my world.
Then, the afterglow. Somehow, a setting sun can leave the gift of light, knowing that the world which it circles needs time to absorb what has just happened. Time to savor the beauty, let the flow melt into our hearts and souls, warm our hearts, bring peace to the mind and warm, even transfigure the remnants of our day. The sky, streaked orange, gold rose, came alive. The surface of the river glowed with the reflection of the sky and clouds. It was all so alive, clouds, river moving, colors drifting and merging into yet more variations of colors and patterns. Mesmerizing. Silent, peaceful and I felt my heart moving between amazement, excitement, a quiet deep joy and that “peace that passes all understanding” I speak about at God’s blessing time on Sunday mornings.
The trees on my river bank – I call them my guardian trees – came into focus. Their bare branches etched against the moving colors on the sky/water canvas behind them. The branches of winter trees, like black lace clothing the exquisite glowing backdrop. The trees, immovable, grounded, deeply rooted, clinging to the earth, with bare branches reaching up towards heaven as if in prayer. Bathed in the afterglow. I wondered if deep in the core of them, they remembered when they glowed, hundreds of shade of green in spring and summer, a myriad rainbow of red, gold, orange, deepening into rich burnished browns in the fall – if they remembered and started stirring with the knowing that they too would glow with light in months to come
There are times like this in my life, and maybe yours too. When we simply stand in awe of something and it touches something deep within us and we see things in new, sustaining ways. Feel some stirrings within us, as if in resonance. Its easy to turn away too soon. But what can be the most deeply nourishing is the afterglow, savoring what lingers, giving it time to transform, transfigure our lives. In my life it is seems to happen in “creation” – where the earth and heavens seem to come alive when something as miraculous and yet constantly present in the cycle of our living, moving and having being as a sunrise or sunset happens. For me the backdrops have at magical times been rivers, oceans, streams, mountains, forests, even valleys and deserts. When I have felt awe, amazement, joy rise within me and a sense that I too may reflect the light I am seeing through other living matter created by a Creator whose first words were “Let there be light!” No wonder some of the most memorable Christ moments in the gospels happen on mountaintops, hillsides, around the sea of Galilee, the River Jordan, even desert wilderness.
This coming Sunday, Jesus asks some of his disciples to “come along” up a mountain and it is there the scene known as the “Transfiguration” takes place. Was it a sunrise or sunset moment or maybe both, but there was an amazing glow about what happened, both with Christ and for those around him. The River Jordan earlier was a place of transformation, the wilderness following that scene also a landscape for transfiguring his life.
I remember a quote from John O’Donohue: “I want to be like a river flowing, surprised at its own unfolding.” Maybe after my experience last evening I should change the word “flowing” to “glowing.” I remember standing on a Sunday morning at the outdoor, stone crafted Shrine of the Transformation on the mountain at Shrine Mont at our parish retreat last fall. Looking up and seeing the sunlight streaming through the brightly colored fall leaves. And three children each holding a small branch of leaves up to the sunlight – the leaves, like the children’s faces glowing when held up to the sun. Words, images, afterglows. I savor them still and feel a peace that passeth my understanding, but somehow lingers, absorbed into the very marrow of my being. After-glowing that still warms my soul as my heart melts into the vision.