In search of a sunset, I found serenity, too

City sunset

View from the city.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I drove away from the city to get a country view of a Shenandoah sunset. I came away with so much more than picturesque photos.

I had taken several sunset shots near our daughter’s home in the Virginia valley that is the result of ancient geologic folding. I wanted a different backdrop. I decided to head for a friend’s childhood home.

After I had dropped off my oldest grandson at baseball practice, I drove a few miles south and west of the city that is rapidly sprawling far beyond it’s historic downtown. My friend, Ava, had moved to Ohio last year. She said she remembered people stopping to take pictures of the views opposite her home.

Veiw west

On Ava’s family farm.

Ava had given me perfect directions to her old place. I found it well before sundown, which gave me time to check out the area, and take a few photos first.

Ava was right. The panorama alone was stunning. This high spot on a gently rolling ridge opened up nicely to the west. The sun glowed above the Alleghenies miles away.

I sent her a text with a photo of the evening’s western landscape. Ava’s reply caught me by surprise.

Despite all the years she had lived there, Ava didn’t have a sunset photo from that perspective. Her family’s religion forbade owning a camera. I didn’t know that, however.

In her words, Ava said it was a precious vista that hemmed the western range of her formative years. It was the scene she saw as she walked to the school bus, gather the mail and drove the buggy to church. The foothills, valleys, and mountains served as a geographic security blanket for her.

Ava profusely thanked me for the photos that brought back so many poignant memories. Capturing and sharing that setting generated a heartwarming story that dearly warmed me far more than the fiery sunset.

Tractors whizzed in and out the long lane of the family farm. Wagonload after wagonload of chicken manure got spread on the sloping fields while the sun blazed away behind the distant foothills and aged mountains.

My senses were conflicted. What I saw thrilled me. What I smelled I just endured until dark.

Dancing sunset

Dancing rays.

As I was about to leave, a young man on one of the tractors stopped on his return trip to the barn. A young boy and younger girl flanked the ruddy driver. The farmer wanted to know if I was taking the photos for my own use.

I nodded in the affirmative. He seemed startled when I asked him if this was the old Shank place. He confirmed what I already knew.

We chatted some more, and I told him that I knew Ava. Likely cautious of a stranger, he just smiled broadly and nodded in return without saying that Ava was his aunt. She told me that later. Ava was as thrilled that I had met one of her kin as she was with the photos I had sent.

I had gone in search of a friend’s homestead and a different view of the sunset. I succeeded on both counts. But that’s not what made the evening extraordinary.

Every sunset is different of course. By making these unexpected, long distant connections between an aunt and her nephew, this sundown dazzled me with more than shimmering red and orange rays.

This serendipitous interaction brought me a personal, soothing satisfaction. It was a moving encounter no camera could ever capture.

Allegheny sunset, Shenandoah sunset

Ava’s evening view.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

12 Comments

Filed under column, family, friends, human interest, photography, rural life, travel, writing

12 responses to “In search of a sunset, I found serenity, too

  1. Gail Brown

    Magnificent! And heartwarming. Time and place; evocative reminders of phases in our journey through life. Thanks for another great post, Bruce.

    Gail B

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bruce, this may seem a little quirky but. . .I’ve always imagined a similar sky to usher in the Lord’s second coming. I can imagine his triumphant return in such a spectacular sky as that. Thanks for sharing! 😊

    Like

  3. Beautiful sunset, sweet story. 🙂

    Like

  4. Ava

    Thank you, Bruce, for this precious story and pictures. It means more than words can express. I just returned from a spontaneous visit home, my first since moving last year, thus my late response to your post. Perhaps the photos you sent were part of what spurred me to go. Who can know the mysterious complexities of hearts and family ties? And blue mountain security blankets.

    Thank you again, Bruce.

    Ava

    Like

  5. Ava

    When I visited my sister who lives on the family farm, she said the sunset was extra colorful the night you were there. Perhaps the Lord had a reason for painting it extra bright that evening.

    Like

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