Snow: A precious moment as the sun goes down

asnow@newsobserver.comJuly 7, 2012 

“Come look at the sunset,” my wife called from the back door of the beach condo.

“I’ve seen those beautiful sunsets before,” I whined, hating to give up my book as I lay on the comfortable couch.

But I trudged out to watch the sunset. It was a beauty as it dipped into the horizon. But its normal brilliance was blurred by the pillars of smoke rising from the still-smoldering forest fires that had plagued Craven County for days.

Sunsets can be stunning. The most impressive are those I watched from the coral beaches of the South Pacific during World War II. As the sun’s rays kissed the water, it was as if ocean and sky had met in a fiery Armageddon of nature.

When I watch sunsets, I think of the writer Ray Bradbury, who died recently.

In “Dandelion Wine,” Leo, the dreamer, spends his time trying to build a happiness machine in the garage. Lena, his long-suffering wife, is happy when the machine blows up.

She consoles Leo by reminding him that we all must climb out of the happiness machine and “go back to the dirty dishes and beds not made.”

“Leo,” she asks, “how long can you look at a sunset? Who wants a sunset to last? … Sunsets we like because they only happen once and go away.”

Lena was right. Happiness, like sunsets, is not ongoing. If it were, we wouldn’t know how to appreciate it. We wouldn’t even know we were happy.

‘Journey proud’

In preparing for an upcoming trip, I find myself suffering from a case of “journey proud.”

I haven’t heard the expression in quite a while. The wife of a former boss always came down with a case of “journey proud” every time she and her husband were preparing for an out-of-town trip.

“I was so journey proud I didn’t sleep a wink all night,” she’d say, referring to the nervous apprehension that always preceded a trip. “ I even put a bag of kitchen garbage in the trunk of the car by mistake.”

No, “ journey proud” isn’t a Southern-born affliction. According to my Internet research, the expression came to us from England via the New England colonies.

Chimney guests

As I write, there is a chattering from the nearby den fireplace. Birds have nested in the chimney.

As a devout birdwatcher, I don’t mind their presence, but visitors find their sudden outbursts of chirping disconcerting.

The baby birds are, for the most part, quiet, polite houseguests until Mom or Pop arrives with worms. Then there is a rousing rendition of birddom’s equivalent of the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

I am curious as to what sort of bird has moved in. Someone suggested chimney swift. I think not, as I have not seen any on my premises – ever.

I am serving notice that feathered invaders must be out by October, when we turn on the gas logs. I suspect I will have to employ a chimney sweep to solve the problem.

Thanks for ‘mash box’

I have been remiss in not saluting earlier a hero of mine, the late Eugene Polley, who died last month at age 96.

Mr. Polley invented the TV remote, one of the greatest things since sliced bread.

Sure, he’s partly responsible for a generation of couch potatoes. So what?

Remember the days when, in order to change channels, turn up or down the volume or turn off the set, we had to trudge across the room and turn knobs?

TV remotes were a luxury for years. I remember our toddler daughter would go to our neighbors on Sunday nights to watch “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” on their color TV.

She would come home talking about the Greens’ “mashbox” that she was allowed to operate. Now, decades later, we refer to the remote as the “mashbox.”

I would trade a pair of fine mules just for the “mashbox’s” mute button that allows us to tune out those interminable, mind-boggling commercials programmed to come through twice as loud as regular programming.

Thank you, Mr. Polley, wherever you are.


“They’re starting out with just what they have to have. A bed, a stove and a TV set.”

Snow: 919-836-5636

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