The Repeated Refrain of Nature

April 1, 2020

The book club doesn’t talk about books anymore now that we meet on Zoom. Jill and Lisa mention the solace they’re finding on the rooftops of their Mexico City apartment buildings, a momentary escape from four walls to be surrounded by sky and, until recently, the effusion of jacarandas in bloom. I too go to my rooftop, every night right around sunset. Jill wants to know if I’ve seen the roomful of Diego Rivera’s sunset paintings in the Dolores Olmedo museum. I have. There are twenty of these small, simply-framed gems arranged in an arc on a long wall. I often think of them right around 7:50 pm, the time when the sun that moves so imperceptibly across the sky all day picks up speed as it nears the horizon.

April 8, 2020

Layers upon layers of mountain line my westerly view, and somewhere beyond these ridges lies the lip of the Pacific Ocean. That’s where Diego watched his sunsets in 1957. He was broke and sick with cancer, on his fifth and last wife, living in an Acapulco beach house on loan from his patron Lola Olmedo. Painting until the end, recording every single sunset as if it were the last until it was.

April 10, 2020
I imagine painting them, wondering if watercolor can do an orange that intense. I settle for words, scribbling, “striations of hot pink,” and “smokey lavender cloud opacity” in my notebook. I wish that I could remember the names of the types cloud formations from that interminably long science unit in seventh grade. Only cirrus, cumulous and mackerel sky have stayed with me. I stop myself from googling it, so that I can stay in the moment.

Panda on the rooftop ignoring the sunset.
Because it’s a good moment, the one where I can finally lay aside the to-do list I barely make a dent in. I’ve already made a new list of priorities that I’ll ignore the next day, by deciding, say, that curating some my favorite sunset shots is more important than updating websites, launching a fundraiser or catching up on taxes. It’s also the time of day when I read. And so my notebook fills up with scrawled quotations as well, like this one from Rachel Carson: “There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrain of nature.”
April 8, 2020

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