06 October 2006


6 October 2006

Once, many years ago, I sat on a beach on the Oregon coast taking pictures with the camera my father had given me.  I was photographing the sunset. 

I have always loved the beach at sunset. The rest of the visitors are all packing it in for the day– trying to get home before full dark.  The beach empties out and a sense of isolation and peace descends.  The ocean and the sky lie unbounded in front while the dunes protect my back.

In the time I can breathe in and out once, the sun has dipped a little lower, so bright that even its reflection in the waves is too bright too bear.

That sunset, twenty years past, a man walked up to me and inquired about my camera.  I didn’t know him and wouldn’t recognize him now, but we chatted, sharing the same beach-stranded log for a short time.  Eventually the sun set.  The sand chilled my feet.  I packed up and went home.  He strolled away down the beach.

Why do I remember that day?  I certainly don’t remember what we talked about, other than a shared interested in photography. 

I remember that day because I was a shy teenager who was feeling alone and isolated, who had books for company rather than peers (and, quite frankly preferred the books– they were easier to understand).  On that day, that sunset conversation was window into an adult world, where life happens causally and with a minimum of fuss and drama.

It was a realization that a conversation might be the beginning of a relationship or it might be the entire relationship.

Over time, that conversation has become my reminder that you don’t plan to meet the person who will become a lifelong friend.  Instead you have conversations– some of which end at sunset and some of which last a lifetime.

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