Last night, I found myself in possession of a few unscheduled hours between my work shift and a play date at the club. I went to Starbucks, first, for an iced coffee and a protein box, and I’d intended on staying there the full three hours, but there was this guy. Super creepy, mumbling in Russian, standing at the condiment counter. He stared at me, started to approach, hung back, and eventually flicked sugar packets at me, all while murmuring in Russian. Lets just say, my hackles were definitely up. When I’d made up my mind to do something, he left. I took a deep breath and could relax enough to eat my snack and start actually reading my book, instead of just hiding behind it.
Then a large group of political signature-capturers came in. I remembered these folks from a date at the same Starbucks many months ago. I knew they’d get loud.
So I decided to make to drive up to Rocky Butte and watch the sunset.
Rocky Butte is a lookout point high above Portland, mostly known for being a makeout spot. But the views of Portland, Vancouver, and the Cascade mountains are breathtaking, and I’d never seen the sun set from there.
It was worth the time.
Choosing to skip the regular lookout spot, I parked my SUV near a boulder and sat on the tailgate. I watched the city lights come on and the river take on a luminescent glow. It was hazy and simple and so lovely. I tried to clear my mind, to let go of the creep Starbucks dude and the anticipation of my date. To stop the ache for N and the worry over my kids and my mom. To ignore the muscle soreness from my workout, and just focus on being.
And memories flitted past.
My relationship with N isn’t the first long-distance relationship I’ve been in. Jason and I were long distance at the very start and I remember crying on his shoulder the first time he left for his military training in Arizona. It was sunset, then, and we promised each other we would be that old couple who still help hands and watched the sun rise and set together whenever we could. In the months that followed, I would get letters from him about the desert sunsets, once, even a gorgeous postcard of cactus and mountains silhouetted purple against a fire-red sky. Later, when we had cell phones, I would get pictures from his day and his travels “Still watching sunsets. I love you.” and I would send him the same.
We’ve watched the sun set from just south of the Canadian border to just North of Mexico. We’ve watched the Pacific Ocean turn dusky blue as the sun rose behind us, and rosy pink as the sun set in front of us. In Carlsbad, California the cliffs turn a blinding gold color in the dying light. At the top of Larch Mountain, in the Columba River Gorge, you are surrounded by the Cascade Range and the mountains turn pink as a periwinkle mist rises from the valleys. In Tucson, Arizona we watched the desert sky turn a bleached blue color as the sun just faded out. We were teenagers, then, and just engaged to one another. With our children, we’ve watched sunsets turn the Pacific silver and gold after days spent playing in the sand at Lincoln City or Seaside or Fort Stevens. We watched one magical sunset from a rooftop pool in Anaheim, and as soon as dark had settled, we watched the fireworks over Disneyland.
I’ve watched countless sunrises over Mount Hood, including the one on the morning my father breathed his last breath. I remember the golden light of a warm September morning filtering through the maple tree as I said goodbye. I’ve watched the oil fields of Oklahoma turn russet, the oil drills looking like strange sci-fi bugs in stark contrast to the bright sky. I roller-bladed through a cotton-candy sunset on the boardwalk in Long Beach, California, thinking of Jason and knowing he was watching the same sun set just a few miles south of me, at the Marine Corps base where he was stationed at the time. In Japan, I faced the ocean and experienced the novelty of the sun setting opposite the beach, something I’ve never experience before. I watched the sun set from the Tokyo airport, knowing it was headed around the world to my home in Portland, and that I would meet it again, shortly after sunrise there.
So many memories, so many pins on the map. Ever increasing reminders of the smallness of our world… That we all have the sun and moon and stars in common. hat no matter how far apart we are, we can watch the same sun set and rise, day after day, and still feel connected.