Happily Scared

The first time I saw the sunset I thought that the sun had died. At least this is how I remember my first sunset. As the light became more and more distant and the vast lava-coloured disk in the distance continued to sink below the horizon, I could sense that something had gone horribly wrong. The sun was committing suicide. It was falling out of the sky, crashing into the ocean.

But as it did, things around me began to change, to look more interesting. Everything was turning into a pink ghost. On one hand you wanted the sky to stop changing. But with each passing moment you changed your mind, as the colours were becoming even more interesting, more mysterious, more mesmerising. You wanted to stick around until the bitter end and see what happens next. From the violently blinding whites and yellows just an hour ago, we had crossed the entire spectrum and into the deep cooling blues, lavender purples and smiling pinks. How could death possibly be so beautiful?

As my parents put their arms around me, I was convinced that they did so because we were all about to die. We watched the sunset on top of a hill and I remember sitting there scared, but strangely happy at the same time. I looked up towards them for reassurance. Their faces were telling me that they had been in this situation before. Somehow this had happened in the past. The sun had died again, and again.

Ever since that day I have been obsessed with colours. My parents took me to watercolour classes before I could barely talk, and my first teacher was amazed that I could instinctively put all the colours of the rainbow in the right order, without ever being shown by anyone. I had learned it from the sun. I had learned it by playing with a crystal vase my mother had which I used as a prism when she was away at work. Later on I would learn in physics class that colours are just light wavelengths. During the day they mix together. In the evening they arrange themselves in formation so that they can individually pay their respects to the sun’s funeral. The sun becomes so moved by this display of beautiful colours that it decides to come back again the next day for one last time. This drama repeats every single evening, with the colours winning every time. Somehow they always manage to change the sun’s mind.

The sunset’s colours are everywhere around us. From lush green trees to blue oceans, red poppies and yellow daffodils, the Earth is on a charm offensive to beg us to spare its life. To hold on to each moment for a little while longer, before the lights go out for good.

To be continued …(or not)

George is a chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , join his mailing list, or read his books:

3 thoughts on “Happily Scared

  1. Your use of analogous relationships, visual imagery and figurative language is quite phenomenal. If find myself reading and rereading passages. The imagery is clear and the pensiveness is good for the mind…..very literary. Thanks. Peter Sent from my iPhone


  2. Oh wow. You combine the viewpoints of nature and the wonder of you as a child and the science and the dreams into something edible for the soul. That’s why I take photos, to witness this charm offensive. What a great way of putting it.

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