Weather Is Here. Wish You Were Beautiful.

Almost as cliché as someone’s feet in the foreground of a picture of a sandy beach and tropical sea as they bask in the glory of their downtime bliss are the shots of sunrises and sunsets. In real life, everyone of us has seen thousands – even tens of thousands – and yet we still arrange our mornings and build our evenings to ensure that we are in the most ideal place to see the sun’s light show. Whether peaking through skyscrapers, reflecting off windows, or dancing on the ocean, Mother Nature never disappoints. 

My brother in law – a fabulously talented French photographer – gets visibly annoyed by the efforts most of us go to see and capture sunrises and sunsets. Why, he wonders, is everyone so possessed that they will stop a conversation midstream, drive for miles, or set an alarm to see something available on most every picture postcard known to man? And to take photos and share them? Bah! Why when there is a constant display of unpredictable beauty all around us? Clearly, he’s unimpressed; in fact, he finds it annoying as hell. 

Emmanuel reminded me that the word cliché is French (no surprise there). He also explained that it’s meaning finds its origin in photography. Indeed. He wasn’t lying. The French dictionary definition is “a photographic negative.” Who knew? He went on to explain that while once exclusively transmitters of facts – like portraits and buildings, for example – the art of photography has evolved into something much deeper…more like a window into the artist’s emotional being. “I spend every minute of every day seeing beauty. Whether the curve of my daughter’s neck, or the love I feel for Priscilla. My images are about trying to capture and show the power of these deep and moving emotions.”

Huh. So, it’s probably pretty dismissive of me to move quickly through people’s posts of spectacular things they’ve seen, right? I swipe past countless beauties with little if any emotional connection, stopping only occasionally to take in a particularly beautiful image long enough to click on the thumbs up. And – even worse – at a subconscious level I think do so as some form of mea culpa for the countless similar pics I’ve forced onto people’s feeds. Kind of like a “see, I’ve noticed you, and thanks for noticing me.”

Why, then, do I continue to snap and post and snap and post again? Am I striving to be the very best cliché I can be? I mean really… I live in Sunset Mecca, and I vacation in the Sunrise Holy Land. By anyone’s standards – though most definitely by Emmanuel’s – I am teetering on the threshold of being the single most annoying cliché on earth.

Yet, as I sit here on the beach, where I’ve been since the glow of morning’s arrival was just breaking the dark of night, I feel enveloped by a peaceful warmth and sense of joy. I am always taken by how when I look away from the horizon even for a moment, the sky offers entirely new arrays of color combinations. Is that what is so appealing…the change? The striking rainbow of colors and shadows that the sun and clouds conspire to create? Or is it that every second shows something completely different, imagery never seen before and never to be seen again?

By comparison, as I make my way through the daily grind of life, I focus on the relatively monochromatic moments in front of me: the next item to do, the next conversation to have, and/or the next objective to achieve. It’s a whirlwind of thought and action, all of which requires my active participation. Sure, sometimes I take just enough of a step back to absorb my surroundings, though those occasions feel more like information gathering exercises, moments where hidden clues are sought to help inform my next move. 

As the dawn and dusk reliably arrive each day, and I do my various forms of gymnastics to greet them, I know – for just these fleeting moments – that I will have nothing to do, nothing to deliver, and no decision to make. Mother Nature is in complete control, and I get to exist with complete trust that she will show me in the most spectacular fashion that beauty exists. If I just stop for long enough to let it appear, I will see it. And without fail, it will offer me peace and joy in a way that no deliberate effort ever will. 

I’m sure that the urge to capture her daily lessons on film (as we used to say) is my way of prolonging these blissful moments, of delaying the arrival of daylight’s and nighttime’s neutrality. But when I dig deeper, I view sharing the images is a small attempt to invite others into these deeply moving moments, ones where I’ve relinquished control and am at my most peaceful and still. 

Of course, by the time I’ve hit that pesky post button, I’m back in action, consequently and unintentionally converting the vulnerable moment into what surely appears on a timeline like laying of a gauntlet. See what I saw? Betcha didn’t see anything as beautiful as I did! Check out this man’s morning commute!

And so we are back to my brother-in-law’s Postcard Perspective. He certainly has a point. If my goal is to share the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, there are innumerable images more beautiful than mine lining store kiosks and filling coffee table books. Why bother, right? Well, like his photography to him, sunrises and sunsets stir emotions in me that I don’t feel at any other time. Cliché as they may appear, what I see in them are feelings of boundless freedom and promises of beauty. I am inspired, though, by Emmanuel’s emotional journey through his eyes, which doesn’t limit it’s capacity to the predicability of Mother Nature’s light shows. He wants to see beauty, and it is through that open lens that he sees hope. I want to get me some of that. 

The sunrise is beautiful. Wish you were here.