There was one of those straight white clouds across the sky this morning. It was crystal clear and made me think of the beach in Mozambique, which has so much of my heart. I cannot believe it is two long years since I was last there.
I loved the crisp time of morning just before daybreak, the sky preparing itself to receive the majesty of the sun, clouds scurrying like rabbits across the horizon, knowing they would soon be dispersed by the warmth of those rays. What follows is quite momentous. The sky lightens, the colours change. Some days they are almost nondescript and pale. In a moment this can change to violent oranges and pinks, even a shimmer of green. I would find myself holding my breath. Then there would be the peep of a rim over the horizon, before a passageway of light would stream across the sea. Where it touched the beach, it would make the foam of the waves glisten like golden gossamer threads then fan out across the sand to highlight the dips and crevices of the beach.
My sons attest to the fact that I love the beginning and end of each day – they complain about all the pictures of sunrises and sunsets on my computer. But to me these are the magical times, and I hate missing even one. These are the times when I stop, and wonder at the overwhelming beauty of our world: the first full of promise for a new day, the second heralds a time of relaxation as the day closes and the rest of the night beckons. I love the slow closing down of an African dusk, Venus appearing as a light proudly proclaiming her place in the heavens, and slowly the rest of the stars are turned on. There is so much comfort in seeing the southern cross showing the way as it has done since time began, the constellations that change with the seasons. Orion will soon disappear to be replaced by Scorpio as the seasons grind inexorably towards the next cycle.
Even cloudy mornings have their attraction, with a promise, of rain, of cold or heat, or somewhere in between. The psalmist says from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same the Lords name is to be praised, and he is right. These are the times to stop everything, and stand and behold the wonder of the Lord.
Away from the beach and to my home in this beautiful Malkerns valley, the sunrises and sunsets are no less spectacular. I love the colour spectrum that ranges from indigos and vivid pinks to the gentlest pastels of violet and apricot and blush. I have to photograph them, to try somehow to hang onto that wonderment, to have it reproduced and put somewhere I can access it easily when I need to feed my soul. So often they only reproduce a fraction of the actual glory of the event.
I think that is one of the reasons I wanted to learn to paint – maybe in the artists palette of colours I can capture better the ethos of the moment. I was in Nelspruit this week, and made use of a gap in appointments to have an art lesson with Colleen Dreyer, a great potter now water colourist of note. We got to talking about this, and how hard it is to interpret the colours of a spectacular sunset. It is so easy to overdo it, and you end up with something that on paper, is gaudy and kitsch. All highlighting how limited we are as human beings.
Which leads me to think of talent, what we do with the gifts we have been given, and how we celebrate them. Another talented artist and teacher, Louise Reilly, was talking about how upset she feels when her pupils downplay their efforts, particularly when she thinks they have produced something good. Why do we do that? Is it an ingrained misunderstanding of humility, is it a need for reassurance, or do we genuinely not like what we do, because we sense we have missed that indefinable essence that we were searching for?
My youngest son, Mark, is an actor. His latest play, Bulawayo Boogie, opened in Cape Town on Wednesday night. I got a non-committal reply to my enquiry yesterday as to how it had gone: “show was fine.” Then I read a fabulous review on Facebook, and thought, “Oh, so it was good, and it went over well!”
Sadly, if we were all able to be completely honest about our achievements, chances are we would be accused of bragging, or boasting, or being big-headed. Happily, we don’t have those worries when we look at what all God paints and performs for us at curtain up and curtain down of each day.