Sunset Over Brussels

Considering the train wreck our daily life sometimes seems, we've actually been lucky on the whole. We have a wonderful family, enough to eat, and a more than adequate roof over our heads. We've also had opportunities to do things many people only dream about. Take travel for instance.

We've been to every continent on Earth (except Australia and Antarctica), 24 countries in all. We've ventured to the far-northern ice of Greenland and south to the chilly interior of southern Argentina. We hurried east when Americans fled Teheran and crawled west, all the way to South Korea. We've taken in all 50 United States and all but three Canadian provinces. We've gone to touristy places like Paris and out of the way spots like Uruguay. There were a few hellholes along the way, Saudi Arabia comes to mind, and plenty of very nice spots as well.

All that travel and the people we've met along the way have informed our view of the world in a way that would have been impossible had we stayed at home. It also gifted us with spectacular memories of the wonderful and beautiful things we've seen. From time to time, we like to run through them like a virtual scrapbook in our head. Here is one we've thought of lately.

Sunset Over Brussels

In our younger Air Force days, we sometimes worked long hours trotting around the globe. For the most part, the trips had a sameness that any airline pilot would instantly recognize. On the fifth flight of the day between Point A and Point B, the excitement of flying becomes a bit muted.

It was on one of these seemingly endless days that we found ourselves riding in exhaustion and trapped in our screaming, creaking old warhorse of an airplane. We'd left Germany earlier in the day for a trip back to our temporary base in the England.

Around sundown, we ran into conditions that sometimes happen on exceptionally clear days. The ground directly beneath us had already slipped into darkness while the sun was still setting brilliantly in front of us.

As the darkness of the ground and the majesty of the sunset became apparent, each person on the normally talkative crew took note and quieted down.

Like magic, all the voices and radio calls crackled away and we were left with the screamingest silence we've ever heard. The airplane was normally so noisy it required yelling to communicate without a headset. However, the sound it made in that moment transformed the ugly beating of propellers churning the sky into the white noise of an ocean wave heard from a seashell against your ear.

Below us, Brussels was alive with an electrical life. Its broad avenues were clearly marked on the dark carpet of the ground - sparkling, twinkling, and pure. Above, the sunset stretched out before us and into infinity.

At the top, the sky burned with ferocity. Huge clouds helped break up the blinding reds, oranges, and blues into a painting unlike any mere mortal ever painted. First, a band of daylight blue delicately mixed with the soft white clouds. Bands of orange and vermillion were next. Each ray shooting into the daylight above and down into the darkness below. Then came a thin line of purple marking the line where day turned into night. Finally, the lights of Belgium merged into the purple, gradually gaining strength as the sun moved west.

We rode on in that splendid roaring silence for nearly a half hour before the sun outpaced us on its journey to pull darkness over North America's shores. During that half hour, no one on the crew said a word. Even the most jaded of us saw a beauty that is rare in today's world and we all took a silent oath to enjoy it and share the solitude with our brothers.

Just as the last specs of light fell into darkness, the radio scrambled to life with the voice of an air traffic controller. The sound startled several of us as we jumped out of our reverie and joined the work-a-day world once again. Just as suddenly as it had disappeared, the noise of the airplane came rushing back. We began to talk as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. And we suppose nothing out of the ordinary did happen, because sunsets happen every day and every one of them is beautiful somewhere in the world. You just have to be in the right place at the right time to see them.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, March 21, 2006

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