The Last Sunset


Strictly speaking, this is far from the world’s last sunset; in truth, it’s not even the last sunset I’ll see from my beloved third story perch above the water. But it is the last sunset I’ll photograph from this perch. In little more than a week I will have made the move from my unobstructed view of sky and water to a ground-level view of cypress trees, pedestrian hedges, and very little sky.

Friends know I’ve been pondering this move for some time. Only the sky, the water, and the night birds have prevented a move to a smaller, more economical apartment without the stairs that could become a liability in future years. Finally, overcome by a fit of rationality, I made the decision. Today, stacks of book-filled boxes and empty walls attest to an undeniable reality: another chapter is closing.

In time, I’ll search out other sunsets, and discover unexpected treasures in a new setting. But now it’s time to move on, and the words of the poet Horace seem fitting:

No one’s allowed to know his fate,
Not you, not me: don’t ask, don’t hunt for answers
In tea leaves or palms. Be patient with whatever comes.
This could be our last winter, it could be many
More, pounding the Tuscan Sea on these rocks:
Do what you must, be wise, cut your vines
And forget about hope. Time goes running, even
As we talk. Take the present, the future’s no one’s affair.


Comments always are welcome.
The lines of “Ode I. 11”  are taken from The Essential Horace: Odes, Epodes, Satires and Epistles, edited and translated from the Latin by Burton Raffel. © Northpoint Press, 1983.

84 thoughts on “The Last Sunset

  1. “No one’s allowed to know his fate,
    Not you, not me: don’t ask, don’t hunt for answers.”

    That is true, Linda. I hope you will make the new place as homely as the previous one. I am sure you will.

    1. In truth, I enjoy moving. I certainly have done enough of it over the years to know how to go about it efficiently, and I never have any problem settling into a new spot. It took a little longer to reach the decision this time because the move was born of choice rather than necessity, but I’m looking forward to getting to know the squirrels I found frolicking in the yard yesterday.

  2. Congratulations on your bold move and winning strategy. (Hmmm, I think the move and strategy bit is my version of something from a CNN business programme) You may be at the end of one chapter of your life but the next chapter could be more exciting than the last few lines of the current one. Are you doing the move by yourself, or do you have someone to give you a hand? And what a fabulous last sunset!

    1. I am doing all of the packing myself, since I’m the only one who can make the hundreds of decisions that are required (keep? toss? donate? sell?), and I’m not willing to trust anyone else to pack things like my china collection properly. Everything is being sorted into three stacks: heavy but not fragile, heavy and requiring some care, and fragile. The first two stacks will be the responsibility of the moving company, as will the furniture. I’ll move the fragile items myself.

      Winter’s not our best ‘sunset season,’ but by the time we pass the solstice and the days begin to lengthen, I should have found some new spots to enjoy.

  3. Good luck with the move, Linda. No doubt, it’s a combination of sadness tinged with excitement at a new chapter in your life. But at least living in the same area gives you some sense of familiarity with the landscape, if not the exact sunset view.

    Take care not to rush packing. I hope you have some help with the heavier boxes and furniture as well as placing the furniture in their eventual location within your new home.

    (All you need is the bed made and a vacant chair and kitchen utensils to make a meal for starters)

    1. In truth, what I’m losing in water and sky, I’m gaining in trees. I’ll have some large cypress right out my window, and they’re one of my favorite trees. I’ll be trading mallards, night herons, and gulls for other kinds of birds: discovering what they are will be part of the fun.

      I have engaged a well-respected local moving company: one that’s able to handle antique furniture and my grandmother clock. I used them in the past, and the man who brought the clock back to life some years ago also recommended them. The packing nearly is done, and the move itself ought to be easy. I’ll get the keys next Saturday, so I can decide exactly where I want things to be placed ahead of time — no need for decision-making on the day of the move. As long as my internet provider manages to do their job, all will be good.

        1. I don’t know if I have it all in hand, but I have a good bit of it boxed up now. I’ll finish with that tomorrow, and then bake Thanksgiving pies. I may be down to one plate, one cup, a skillet and a pan, but I was smart enough to keep out the pie plates, the rolling pin, and a couple of mixing bowls. Well, and the pecans.

            1. Thank you so much for the link! My Great Aunt used to make a killer Pecan Pie (and nothing but butter, eggs and brown sugar as far as I know) but sadly that was long before I had ever touched a rolling pin and I always wished that I had her recipe.

  4. OK, so that means that you’ll just have to walk a little farther for a nice sunset. That’s something you’ll be doing, anyway, so no problem.
    The only thing consistent about life is that it will be changing. The one constant that we have control over is our outlook and attitude when it comes to new challenges. You’ll be fine.
    Soon you’ll be posting sunRISES rather than sunsets. It’s all in how you see things.
    Best of luck in the move. Keep them cards and letters comin’.

    1. Of course I already have a future post in my draft files with the title, “The Sun Also Rises.” There’s no content yet. That will come later.

      The best news is that I’m well enough along in the packing process that I can abandon it all this weekend to enjoy the glorious weather — outside.

  5. What excellent and appropriate lines from two millennia ago to accompany your move. Sometimes it becomes a person to be overcome by a fit of rationality, and this seems like one of those times. Happy new, as Eve says.

    1. About a year ago, I picked up David Ferry’s translation of The Epistles of Horace, and found it so enjoyable I began dipping into other, newer translations of writers who never appealed to me in the past, including Horace. Entertaining wisdom always appeals.

      Happy new, indeed. The primary benefit of the move will be financial, and more funds available for travel means there’s no telling where I might find new sunsets and sunrises.

    1. Thanks, Derrick. I’m looking forward to getting reestablished in my new place, and being less distracted by the details of a move. It’s been cutting into my writing and camera time!

    1. Actually, the stairs are only a potential issue, and there is an elevator — which the moving crews certainly appreciate. If I had to point to a single issue that makes the move reasonable, it would be financial. Everyone wants the water views, and many are willing to pay an increasing premium to have one. The latest increase was substantial, and I’m not willing to pay it.

      1. But as it sounds like you’ll use the savings to travel more, I’m thinking this move will be rather more life-enriching in the long run… (That plus your new tree-dwelling neighbours are another world of discovery: ). Congrats!

        1. For the time being, the best thing about the savings is that it will smooth out the cash flow. The winter months can be frustrating when it’s impossible to work for a couple of weeks. I love the freedom of being an independent contractor, but regular salary checks do have advantages.

    1. Absolutely. I’ll have cypress trees in addition to palms, an abundance of squirrels, and who knows what kind of birds. It has an eastern exposure, and is well protected from direct summer afternoon sun and cold winter winds, so I’m anticipating lower utility costs, and a more usable patio.

  6. Good luck with the move this week and next and however long it takes. I know you’ll miss your view but I know no one more equipped to find the best views — intimate and grand — in the world around her. I think it will be quite perfect for a new chapter.

    I’ve never read that Horace. Wouldn’t that be the best closing benediction for a funeral? I’ll have to print that out and put it in my file.

    1. I’m beginning to think I’m going to have to engage in a second sorting while I unpack. It hadn’t occurred to me that the shelves and ledges I’ve installed around here may not all fit in the new place, and that means that a lot of china may not have a home. There certainly will be more decision making at the other end — but that’s all part of feathering the new nest.

      I do like that quotation. At first, I wasn’t sure I’d want it at a funeral, but then I read it again and its ability to serve as a memento mori is clear. Time is running, even as we talk.

  7. You and your camera will love getting to know the squirrels and other little critters you’ll find. Where I used to live we had tons of squirrels and missed them so after I moved here. The idea of leaving a house where I can see out in all four directions for a place where I’ll only get to see out in one direction will be my challenge to get used to….I’ve never lived in an apartment/condo building before. But I, too, am looking forward to lower unity bills without all the drafty windows. There is always a trade off.

    Love the poem!

    1. You’re right about those trade-offs. When I lived aboard a boat, I had all the water and sky a person could desire, but there was about 200 square feet of living space, and a galley only a sixth the size of my new kitchen. If I hadn’t been living in a marina where there were separate, on-shore laundry and shower facilities, I might have moved off the boat sooner.

      Since I’m nearer the pool and the other recreational facilities, there may be more outside activity during the summer, too. On the other hand, the people on the docks outside my current apartment certainly know how to party hearty, so weekends may be quieter in the new place.

    1. Thank you, rethy! It’s going to be great fun to settle in, I think. The trick will be to move slowly, and not try to replicate the way things have been here. As long as I have the coffee pot and the computer functioning, and my favorite/most used books are back in their accustomed places, all will be well. I appreciate your good wishes!

  8. I’ve never closed one door but a new one has opened, Linda. Enjoy your new digs. I have no doubt you will find things and views that continue to fire your imagination. –Curt

  9. I’m sorry you won’t be viewing sunsets like that one from your place of respite, but your more earth-bound view will, no doubt, inspire. Why? Because you have the ability to see and share the beauty you encounter. And your readers thank you for that. All the best on the move–be careful lifting those boxes!

    My sister-in-law has just embarked on a similar adventure; I’ll be writing about that soon.

    1. Do you remember my mention of the mysterious bird that kept singing and calling from the marina — the one I never could find or identify? Well, tonight I heard it — or another of its kind — again, calling from the tree in front of my new apartment. I consider it an omen, and a good one at that. At least I may have a better chance at identifying it now.

      I’ll look forward to reading your sister-in-law’s tale. I’ve about had enough of mine. I’m ready to finish this packing and get on with it!

    1. There comes a time to say, “That’s as good as it’s going to get,” and that sunset was one of those times. I think everything will go well. As far as I know, I’ve taken care of all the details (address change at the post office, arranging for utilities, and so on). Now, it’s just a matter of finishing the packing so I can enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday.

    1. I think I will, particularly since I enjoy trees as much as water and sky. I’m certain there will be pleasures I can’t even anticipate now. It’s not until we actually take possession of a new place that we begin to get a sense of what it can offer!

  10. Those clouds at the top almost look like the underside of a burning log.

    “Cut your vines,” — What a brief, yet elegant metaphor for “don’t withdraw from the world; continue to be actively engaged in the day to day business of life.” You cut the last year’s growth off the grape vine in early spring to ready them for summer and the growth that will produce autumn’s harvest. Even if you are not there to harvest them, someone will (and they will be glad of your foresightfulness!).

    I have confidence that you’ll adapt and thrive in your new place. You always struck me as a self-righter. Moving can be a voyage of discovery in more ways than one.

    1. Now that you mention it, I agree. It’s been so long since I’ve seen a burning log, it didn’t cross my mind.

      “Cut your vines” brought a different image to my mind. I thought of our native bindweed, and the need to cut it away so that the plants it snags and strangles can thrive. We may sing “blest be the ties that bind,” but we’re sometimes bound by ties of tradition, habit, or sheer laziness that need to be cut away.

      Your mention of being a self-righter reminded me of one of my childhood friends. Maybe I began learning how to self-right from Bozo. I have a photo of me with the one I received one Christmas, but it’s already packed away, and there’s no way I’m unpacking a thing.

  11. The sunset in this photo is brilliant as if the sky is one fire. So in your new apartment, I am very sure that you will fairly soon find something even better as you take up residence on ground floor. Saving money surely does have its benefits and as you replied to someone, it will give you more chances for travel and to find new and exciting vistas to photograph. I am eager to see what you will find as you look upon nature from a new perspective. Scampering squirrels are going to be so much fun. Do the cypress turn that marvelous burned orangey red as they do here in my area.?The cypress have been planted along the Brazos and in various places as a landscaping addition. I love the fall color. My son remarked that they looked dead. “They are not dead, those are the fall colors,” I told him.

    1. I can’t imagine finding something better, but “just as good” is a certainty. One thing I’ll be able to have is a real bird feeder. It wasn’t possible here, because neighbors below me weren’t fond of falling seed, or the birds that came to feed on it. To each their own, as they say. I suspect a bird feeder will attract the squirrels, too. If it doesn’t, I’ll figure out why and make a fortune sharing the secret.

      I have the very same cypress. They’re planted throughout our landscaping, and they’re in the midst of that marvelous color change. The most beautiful I’ve ever seen were along the Rio Frio, but they’re delightful wherever they appear, and it looks as though their color is going to be especially vibrant this year. When I first moved here, I thought they were dying, too — perhaps of the world’s largest infestation of spider mites. Not so — and I can’t wait for their full color to appear.

  12. Well, that certainly is a memorable farewell. Maybe you’ll get to visit some of your neighbors once in a while? I can understand your wanting to eliminate stairs. Our woodstove is in the basement and my increasingly arthritic knees aren’t happy about carrying wood down there. I am sure you’ll find new pleasures out the lower level windows and, of course, can make a quicker exit when there is something to go and discover outside. And the reduced rent might make for an extra trip to a faraway location.

    1. Actually, the way the building’s constructed, there are some fine spots (a few even higher up) where sunset photos could be taken. It’s just that for years the movement of the sun along the horizon became so familiar I didn’t need a clock or calendar while sitting at my desk — and the storm watching was fabulous. I joked to a friend I might start staying at work until dark so I could watch the sun go down over the bay — that might not be so funny.

      Thank goodness all my parts still are in working order; the concern about stairs is still in the future. But there are only a few small apartments here, and they’re in demand. It just was wise to get one now, and not have to deal with that in the future. Once I get the key, I’ll take the tape measure and figure out where the furniture goes. I think my computer desk and hutch will fit nicely next to the window that looks out on the trees. If that works out, I’ll be satisfied.

      1. It’s good that you looked into the future and decided to be proactive in that regard. (Not sure I like the word “Proactive”…it’s awful trendy these days). Glad to hear you are in good working order. Aside from some arthritis here and there I am fortunate that way too.
        Maybe not every night, but waiting for the sunset sounds like a good end to a workday.

    1. This morning I noticed that the cypress in front of the new place are taking on their fall rust and gold colors; that’s not the worst trade-off in the world. Add in the squirrels, and the fact that I can mount a bird feeder, and there are some real advantages. It’s a much darker space right now, because of the eastern exposure, but once the sun begins moving to the north, I think it will be fine — and the cypress will be leafless during the winter months, so more light can come in.

  13. Beautiful image of an exceptional sky, nice diagonal lines. I’m sure you’ll find the cypresses good company in your new place. And the squirrels will feast on the bird seed, if they are like the squirrels in my yard, who leap over all the ways I’ve tried to block them from the feeder.

    1. This was one remarkable sunset — I certainly never had seen anything quite like it. I’ll just have to pay a bit more attention now, since I won’t have the ability to sense the changing light while working at my desk.

      You might have missed knowing that I had a pet squirrel for eight years. That explains my inordinate fondness for the critters. I have quite a selection of funny tales about the little guy (e.g., chewing through the icemaker’s water supply to create a private drinking fountain, running off a pair of traveling evangelists, getting drunk on fermented mesquite beans), and I’m hoping to add to my stash of squirrel stories.

      1. Squirrel stories! I haven’t been reading you blog for long enough to have read them, but I’ll look forward to the next installment.
        I usually don’t photograph sunsets, but I love looking at them. I guess I prefer experiencing them – not to say that I don’t delight in seeing other people’s images of them, like your vibrant one.

        1. Actually, photography helped me begin to really appreciate sunsets and sunrises. I’d always limited them a bit, considering the moment the sun sank beneath the horizon, or popped up above it, as the “decisive moment.” Eventually, I learned to get there earlier, and wait longer. it’s amazing how many changes can mark even a relatively pedestrian sunrise/set.

  14. What a lovely sunset! Part of me envies you the opportunity to sort, donate, trash, and rearrange in new surroundings, Linda. I look back and realize how many times over the years I’ve moved — and how freeing each move is! Something about teaching us not to hang on to material things when there are so many around us who have basically nothing. With my mom recently turning over a new year, I feel the pass of time and know I, too, will face my own moving day some time in the future. This house is FAR too big for two people, let alone one. Anyway, good luck with it. I’m sure you’re all organized and will make the best of the new digs!

    1. Well, “all organized” isn’t quite the phrase I’d use, but I’m working on it. I keep thinking about my own mom, and reminding myself what real chaos could look like: moving from a house you’ve been in for fifty years (complete with attic and basement) into a small apartment. No wonder she dragged her feet over that one!

      I suppose one reason we often turn to platitudes is because they do contain some truth. “Change is the only constant” comes to mind. I’m not sure what the philosophers or physicists would say about that one, but it seems true enough in life — and there’s no question learning to cope with constant change is a life-long project.

  15. Sunsets are simply the curtain call and the lights dimming announcing it’s time for the show to start.
    (with the vapor trails and linear white gold clouds, the performance tonight features Pink stripes against gorgeous blues. Always beauty freely given. (applause for your quote -ahhhh)

    1. Did you see the pair of sun dogs this afternoon? I spotted them coming up from Galveston, about four o’clock. There’s a group of people on Twitter who post using the hashtag #opticallyphenomenal, and the sundogs would have fit. It sounds like your clouds would have, too. I missed those, but they sound lovely.

      I couldn’t resist taking the beautiful afternoon to go down to the island. Now, I get to make up for sloughing off by doing a little more — packing!

  16. I wish you the best:

    “How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.”
    ― Virginia Woolf, The Waves

    1. Your sunset image evokes so much tranquility:

      “For now she need not think of anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of – to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others… and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures.”
      ― Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

    2. And here’s another passage from The Waves — one of my favorites:

      “Look at the spider’s web on the corner of the balcony,” said Bernard. “It has beads of water on it, drops of white light”
      “The leaves are gathered round the window like pointed ears,” said Susan.
      “A shadow falls on the path,” said Louis, “like an elbow bent.”
      “Islands of light are swimming on the grass,” said Rhoda. “They have fallen through the trees.”
      ‘The birds eyes are bright in the tunnels between the leaves,” said Neville.
      “The stalks are covered with harsh, short hairs,” said Jinny, “and drops of water have stuck to them.”

      At least this implication of Woolf’s novel is clear: the world is not only’ there,’ it is ‘here’ — no matter where ‘here’ might be.

      1. I came upon these excerpts because I was browsing through Goodreads, which is a social cataloging website that allows you to search its database of books, annotations, and reviews. It also has quotes by many authors. I also was reading that ‘The Waves’ is one of her most creative works.

    3. It’s one of the salutary effects of moving. We pack away and box up and send off, and little by little the place becomes bare: one plate, one cup, a clutch of silverware. Then, we remember: even as the things disappear, we remain.

    1. It’s a lot of work, but it’s going smoothly. Even Comcast swears my internet connection will be switched between 2-4 a.m. the day of the move. We’ll see! It will be fun to get hooked up again and see if it really worked.

  17. Take the present, and make of it what you will, and I’m confident that you’ll make something very good of it. Having just moved a year ago (from a third-floor apartment to a one-story cottage) I know how questions one asks oneself about how the new place will work, especially the views, which are so important, can loom large. When we were in NY we had an amazing view from a fifth-floor apartment – a harbor with all kinds of activity from one window, a residential street with an old church at the end from another window….well, at least we have our photos! :-) Best of luck with move day!

    1. I remember your move very well, but I also remember how delighted you were with your new environs once the necessities were taken care of and you began to settle and explore. My area won’t be so different, but it will be very good to get past the disruption and get back into a routine. The most amusing thing at this point is that I may not get moved before all the cypress trees drop their needles. The changes are coming fast, and a few of the trees dropped nearly every needle today: plop!

  18. Forgive me
    No one’s allowed to know his fate, not you, not me…
    Don’t ask, don’t hunt for answers in tea leaves or palms; be patient with whatever comes.
This could be our last winter; yet there could be many more, pounding the Tuscan Sea on these rocks…

    Do what you must. Be wise, cut your vines and forget about hope; time goes running, even as we speak.
    Take the present, the future’s no one’s affair.
    Carpe Diem

    1. Too little change can be stultifying, just as too much change, too fast, can leave us off-balance. That may be the best thing about being able to choose particular changes — we can maintain a little balance in the midst of it all. It’s funny — I’ve already made the mental move. Now I just need all these boxes and furniture to catch up with me!

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