A number of years ago, I had one of the most profound experiences driving down the interstate. It was well into the fall in upstate New York, the leaves ablaze with crimsons and oranges against a pale, grey sky. Through the clouds off in the distance broke the most beautiful sunset I’d ever beheld—it completely robbed me of breath. Every part of me was consumed by this delicate explosion of color—I couldn’t understand, I couldn’t even imagine how something so exquisite could ever exist.
But it did, and I was there bearing witness to it. Then, in the quiet, intruded the subtlest recognition: It wasn’t the “sunset” I was seeing.
Faster than awareness itself, I shut down: batten down the hatches! It pained me, terrified me to acknowledge the source of this indescribable experience.
I’ve spoken about this time and time again, as if attempting to keep the experience alive but always at a safe distance. Today, that safety was broken.
I was out for a walk in the early evening, and found myself staring off into another sunset. It was, again, beautiful. Moments before losing myself in the experience, the same memory rushed in. A tender vulnerability marked a palpable threshold I realized I could choose to cross.
I can’t recall the exact decisions I made, but I finally surrendered: There, the sunset serving as a backdrop, a gracious mirror against which I could briefly glimpse the vastness of the universe within. There, with the gift of the physical world and this physical existence, I found my place in earnest gratitude. There, magnificent.