In a house in which I once lived, I watched the sun slide along the horizon.
Unaware at first, I watched the sun disappear at the end of every day, never noticing its gradual sidling movement. When I finally did notice, a jolt of terrified adrenaline coursed through my body as I was, for an instant, certain that the sun had somehow slipped off course. I froze, but when the world did not immediately end, I stared, uneasy with a sun whose movements were now mysterious and potentially malevolent. As the sun settled and bulged and slipped beyond the edge of the world through a veil of obscuring tree branches, I was suddenly uncertain of my memory. The sun sets in the West, after all; there could be no ambiguity to its path. I thumbed the pages of a mental flipbook containing all the sunsets I had viewed from this vantage point over the past several months, and I watched the yellow ball fall down the page and disappear against a slowly changing horizon, the final pages revealing the reach of tree branches as they scrabbled across the paper from the right.
The tilt of the earth. The tilt of the earth, paired with the earth’s rotation around the sun, affects the apparent position of the unmoving sun. Just as the stars overhead appear to change position as we move through space, so too does the sun appear to move as our position changes. The sun appears to move not just across the sky but also along the horizon.
I shared my new-found knowledge of the sun’s crabwise path with a few people and quickly discovered that I was the only one to whom this knowledge was new-found.
I was thrown.
I became obsessed with the perception of movement where once there had been none.
I ached to return to a state of casual unknowing.
I lay awake at night and stared at the stars, excruciatingly aware of the earth’s spinning tilting orbit through darkness. I preferred to take the universe and its movements for granted. I wanted the sun to rise and set and mark the passage of my days without my concern. I wanted to casually believe that the earth beneath my feet would remain, unmoving, exactly where I left it as I slept.
Instead, I felt as I often feel on airplanes, as though a moment’s inattentiveness on my part will send the vessel spinning wildly . . . off.
I felt too intimately involved and also completely out of control all at once.
I tried to unknow. I tried to unnotice. I tried to take the world for granted.
But I could not.
I lay awake at night and stared into the sky, unable to stop crying.
Too much awareness of the intricacies of the universe had knocked me, ironically, off-course.
Temporary, this detour turned out to be, although I could not see that at the time.
The other day, we were driving through the darkness, and I tilted my head to better view the silver not-quite-full moon, a small side-slice of it lost to the night. I stared up at the moon, and I was just so suddenly . . . aware. Aware that the portion of the moon lost was lost to shadow. Aware that the shadow was ours. Aware of the earth . . . spinning and tilting and orbiting. . . suspended. Aware of the nothingness in which all is suspended. Aware of the sun, unseen but casting a shadow through the nothing, itself suspended in a vast expanse of nothing.
So exquisitely and excruciatingly aware.
Aware of myself, aware of it all, traveling down a darkened road on the side of a spinning ball, looking up at the result of light cast by a fiery molten sphere against a living earth that then shadowed a silver empty moon.
My breath caught and my throat tightened in refusal of the knowing, and so I put up my thumb to blot the moon from my view.
We traveled on in darkness, staying the course.
Yesterday morning, I sat at my computer, my back to a window through which the sun does not usually directly shine.
Except for those times of the year when it does.
It arrived in a sudden spectacular flare of bright, and I cried out, squinted against the sun’s reflection, threw up defensive hands as the earth aligned itself with the light to fracture this particular window.
To fracture this particular view.
This particular complacency.
I closed my eyes for a second, opening them as I turned to slide out of my seat and out of the sun’s wanting. I opened my eyes and my being was filled with searing light, as though the sun had followed me in my retreat. I blinked against the blaze, my eyes tearing, and I reached a hand to shadow my face, trying to make sense of the sun where there should not have been sun.
Then there was abrupt darkness, or seeming darkness, as my eyes struggled to adjust.
A silhouette at first, she stood, flashlight in hand, pleased with herself, “There.”
I blinked and wiped my eyes, “Oh my god . . . why did you do that? Didn’t you see how I was moving to get out of the light?”
She smiled, “Of course I saw.”
“Mother, sometimes a little extra blinding is required to see the path.”
I see it now.