Down at the Sunset Grill

(Transcribed from a notebook, I hope I can read my writing :)

A year ago on the first day of summer, I drove to a park near our house that had a clear view of the sunset on the longest day of the year. I sat and wrote, keeping an eye on the setting sun. I wrote about how fickle summer can be for adults. For kids, the first day of summer, the actual summer solstice (not the last day of school) means little, because there still are several weeks before the realization actually hits that summer will end (about Aug. 7 is a good realization point). But for adults, at least for me, the first day of summer means you made it to the top of the mountain -- and it's all downhill from here. The days will get shorter, the weather eventually cooler, that perseverance to make it through all those dreary months paid off, only to face it all again. Seasonally, summer really gets going on the solstice, but also reminds us it will end. I don't know if other people feel this too -- maybe is hits them after the Fourth of July (in Milwaukee, it's the last day of Summerfest that felt like summer ended, and that's usually just after July 4) -- but for me, the first day of summer has become bittersweet.

(At this point when I was writing longhand, the sun had set. Just before it did, there was a little cloud intruding in front of it, so little I could only see it against the bright sun with my sunglasses on. That sun/cloud interaction was very cool and reminded me of the Myagi family crest from "The Karate Kid.")

I am back on that small hillside in Donner Park (yes, those Donners), watching the sun set on the longest day of the year again. So much has changed in that year -- my career and what I perceived as important, Eldest growing up, Littlest getting through his first year of life. So much has stayed the same -- my dreams, my passions, the love I feel for my family.

The sun set into the Great Salt Lake. At this time of year, it sets behind Antelope Island, a mountain range in the lake, meaning the true sunset, when it dips below the horizon, is not visible from my vantage point. I'm listening to "Sister Golden Hair" by America, a song that always reminds me of summer dusks. I must have heard it one night as a kid -- it's from 1975, I was 4; there are actually quite a few songs I can remember specifically (and which take me back) from that summer. The opening guitar riff is just mellow enough that it just sounds like ... a summer sunset. I doubt that's what America had in mind, but that's what I hear.

My kids are going to remember things like that someday. I have so many happy memories from my own childhood, and not just the big events, but little things, moments remembered, songs recalled, that became permanently etched. The boys will discover their own fond recollections. I can't force these memories, but I can make damn well sure there are enough opportunities, enough happy times, that they do find them on their own.

The sun set around halfway up Antelope Island. Tomorrow, it will starting making its way south again, for six months, until it's smack dab in the mountains due west. Then it will inch its way back north (insert Circle of Life reference here). Most people reflect like this on Jan. 1. I do it on the summer solstice -- I wonder what the next year will bring, how the boys will grow, where I, and my family will be in our lives. And I wonder what I will write about on this hillside in 2008, listening to that song, watching the sun set on the longest day of the year.


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