Flip open a travel guide to Tucson, Arizona, my current hometown, and you’ll find a healthy list of interesting events and places. We have Rodeo Days at the end of February, a four-day stretch of barrel racing, team penning, and bronco riding. Earlier in the month, we host the largest gem and mineral show in the world. Our Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum houses insects, reptiles, mammals and plant life that intrigue young and old alike. Trails for hikers and bikers crisscross through washes and over hills. Golf courses are found every-which-way you turn. Then there are the mountains. And margaritas. And mountains of margaritas.
But probably my all-time favorite event is something that happens everyday of every year. Not mentioned in many travel guides, it comes free of cost. It started long before I was born and hopefully will continue long beyond my demise.
The sunset. That’s what I’m talking about. In Tucson, the sun shines an average of 350 days per year, which means we have ample opportunity to watch that fiery globe tuck itself into the horizon. This time of year, when the circulating air is quick to usher out smog and haze, the sun’s departure is particularly eloquent.
I’ve been blessed to witness sunsets in Key West, Florida and Del Mar, California. I’ve seen the sun float above the edge of the South Dakota prairie, buoyed by summer humidity. I cried leaning against the railings of a cruise ship as it entered a volcano crater in the Greek islands, the sun’s last rays bouncing off perfectly calm water and “Chariots of Fire” echoing off the jutting mountains. I’ve seen the glory of a Santa Fe, New Mexico sunset with purple and pinks that inspired painters like Georgia O’Keefe.
Still, one of my favorite places to watch a sunset is in Tucson, especially on the golf course about four miles from my home. If I’m out at the range in late afternoon and hitting the ball well, I’ll take a cart out and play nine holes. On almost every hole, I have a clear view of the western and eastern skies. Rarely do I run into people.
Somewhere around the eighth hole, the shadows begin to lengthen. I tee off, facing west and have to judge by the feel of the club head hitting the ball whether or not I’m in the fairway because glaring sunshine blinds my eyes.
About the time the ball drops into the tin cup, the show begins. A roadrunner dashes into the middle of the fairway and stops. Quail chortle. Somewhere in the distance a motor revs. I turn eastward.
The mighty Santa Catalina Mountains have shed their earthy browns for a golden pink. The sun throws its rays against layers of granite and gneiss, turning the pink to a magnificent deep rose. Then as the minutes pass, the mouthwatering hue turns iridescent. For a few still moments, the world feels enormous. Nothing seems as important as being present in this moment. It’s as if Mother Nature is calling out for everyone to stop what they are doing and pay attention to the glory around them.
Then a sheen of purple appears, and the curtain begins to descend. The tops of the mountains reclaim their browns first. The swath of purple narrows as it sinks into the valley floor, a cue for the desert to resume its movement. The quail bobble into their nests. A lone hawk swoops overhead. I hop in my cart and drive to the ninth tee, the western sky blazing with darkening orange and purple clouds.
I’ve seen hundreds of these desert sunsets, some from the golf course, others from my backyard or through the windows of my car while driving. Occasionally, I’ll pull over to watch the performance. Sunsets are like snowflakes and fingerprints – no two look exactly alike, but all leave an imprint on your soul and carry you through to the next day.
If you happen through Tucson during the winter months, you’ll want to pull up a chair and watch the show. And why not?
The experience and the memory are there for the taking. All you’re required to do is savor.
This article was first posted on Boomer-Living Plus.