A Collection of Sunsets


In the dim and dreamy glow of the six oddly placed light bulbs across my living room ceiling, nearing the anxiety-inducing hour of 12:30 am, my eyelids drooped pleadingly, and my fingers slowly waltzed across the keyboard; it was becoming increasingly clear to me that I would not be writing the story I’d been planning to write all day. 

As I pushed through the dregs of my ASL project, I contemplated the possibilities for the night’s required writing. It was tantalizingly tempting to forego writing altogether and succumb to the comforting arms of sleep, but I resolutely forced myself to maintain the meager amount of energy I possessed. 

I write stories. I am—in my very essence—a storyteller. But sometimes it doesn’t matter; sometimes I’m just hopelessly lost to an idea. It was in that unnecessarily prolonged period of time that inevitably occurs between the moment I resolve to accomplish a goal and the moment I complete the goal that an idea came to me. 

In the depths of my camera roll, I carefully house an array of memories. Some rendered in distinct detail, others in grainy, low resolution. And as I skimmed through those memories, I came across my collection of sunsets. 

I collect sunsets the way some might collect pins or unique rocks. They’re not just sunsets to me; they’re stunning moments of clarity and awe-inspiring depictions of indescribable moments. And I have about a billion them; more so, each of them has a story. 

As I reached for those memories, they jumped to my fingertips easily. I realized those were the stories I needed to tell—just a few of the stories from my collection of sunsets.

A Sunset of Triumph and Relief


I’ve always had a bit of a knack for words—hence the passion for writing. But when I was in fourth grade, that knack for words manifested a little differently. When our school announced the upcoming spelling bee, I didn’t really expect to make it past my class’s spelling bee. And after that, I definitely did not expect to win my school spelling bee. And I was completely blown away when I found myself, a shaking, high-pitched, 4ft something fourth-grader, the final contestant at the regional spelling bee. 

In future years—fifth, sixth, and seventh grade—I couldn’t ever make it past the regional spelling bee again, but I always made an appearance, and my family made it a tradition to go out to Applebee’s afterward, regardless of where I placed. 

One of those years, fifth or sixth grade, as we crowded around a table at Applebee’s, I turned and saw the cross of colors that streaked across the sky. It was this inexplicably beautiful moment that I couldn’t bear to forget, so with my mom’s phone in hand, I ran outside the Applebee’s and stood in the grass to take the picture. 

I remember the triumph I felt for coming so far. I remember the relief of no longer having to spend hours poring over a booklet of foreign words. I remember the story of that sunset. 

Kingdoms and Castles in the Clouds


For nearly ten years of my life, I lived on three acres of open expanse behind a small brick house. The only things breaking the space up were a couple of trees—apple, maple, oak—a row of berry bushes, an unsightly silver pole barn, and an overgrown and neglected garden. 

But it was my home, a stretch of land that I sometimes seemed to know better than myself. And when the sun was sinking below the horizon, I could never stop myself from running through the dewy grass in the slight chill of the air to take a picture. 

The clouds, haloed in soft pink light, always looked like little castles to me. I could imagine that there was a whole kingdom up there. A kingdom with fairies and queens and princesses and princes that will always love you and kings that are what men should be and the most beautiful sights the eye could behold. 

It’s that imagination that makes me the storyteller I am. It allowed me to see the kingdom behind the gently glowing clouds. 

Sunsets That Showed Me Where I Needed to Be 


Pathway Church Camp was one of the first places where the rise of voices and the gentle strumming of a guitar and the pure love and faith radiating from each soul drew me in and showed me what it really was I believed in.

The three days I spent every year with my grandparents in the trailer they rented were some of the best days of every summer. The ice cream place with a checkered floor and a jukebox burned into my memory. The thunderstorms that left my cousins and I watching Beauty and the Beast on repeat while eating popcorn. The late nights spent learning and playing card games while the mosquitoes buzzed around our lights. The enormous waves that toppled our life jackets over and rendered us laughing and spluttering. And the sunsets, oh, the sunsets. 

It was probably there, on those impossibly sandy dunes, that I realized what camp meant to me. And while it’s a thing of the past now, the people that meant the most there are not. 

My grandpa, who baptized me right there in Lake Michigan while the wind and waves whipped around us. My yaya, who never fails to show me a new way to take a picture, never fails to make sure I’m happy with the photos we’ve captured. My cousins, who always have a funny joke to tell, something new to share with me. My siblings, whose constant presence in my life brings light into every day. 

Those sunsets of Pathway Church Camp symbolize a slew of memories, relationships, and significant moments of my life.

A Sunset Far From Home


The quality of this photo is low and zoomed in because it was one of those sunsets you just had to be there for. In the gap between the towering trees of our Tennessee campsite, you could see the colors settling into perfect bubbly layers of pinks and oranges and golds. 

But it wasn’t the actual sunset that struck me as deserving of a photo. It was the moment. The first sunset of Tennessee. The feeling of absolute social terror as I endeavored on my first high school church trip. The itchy jitteriness as I waited for small groups to finish. The adrenaline of starting our first hike tomorrow. The comfort of my mom sitting just a few tables away. 

It’s hard to remember the exact emotions as they are lost in years and years of similar emotions. But I remember the need to take a picture, the feeling of importance in this being my first of many high school trips. I needed a picture to document that I was, in fact, watching the sun set in Tennessee. 

A Sunset Even Further From Home

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Arizona was an entirely different experience from Tennessee. It was a plane flight away from home. It was without either of my parents. It was the fulfillment of at least four bucket list items. It was sadder. I was more aware, older, managing more emotions. I cried—something I became quite adept at doing on church excursions. I grew. I learned. I embraced adventure and uncertainty. I showered very few times. 

And I watched the sun set nearly every night there. 

This one, over a canyon we’d visited a couple of times already, was more blues and purples. And to be honest, it’s blurred with every other sunset we watched in Arizona. 

But I can say with certainty, those were some of the most beautiful and centering sunsets I have ever experienced. My camera might not have accurately captured their surreal splendor, but I can’t watch the sunset across the country and not feel so completely contemplative of the existence of human life. 

It makes me realize, the sun sets everywhere, every night.

The Perfect Photo


Munising, Michigan is the definition of nowhere. They have a couple of restaurants, a bowling alley that wasn’t open once during our week there, a shaved ice shack that attracted my business more than once, a few gift shops, a few other attractions, and a mildly concerning amount of gas stations. How many gas stations does one town need?

It was on our first night there, as we left the restaurant after dinner and were heading back to the house, that the sunset over the lake caught my attention. I ran down a hill, through the school parking lot, and onto the bank of the river.

The sky was a soft baby blue with darker blue wisps and puffs of clouds stretching like a canopy over the lake. Towards the horizon, an orangey glow peeked around the clouds. The entire image reflected in an abstract swath of colors on the lake. 

As I snapped photo after photo, trying to capture the perfect angle, I watched the storm move in over the water. Within seconds, the rain was sheeting onto the lake. Before dashing back to the car, I snapped one more photo.

That photo was my favorite from nearly the entire trip. The way the rain rippled across the water in sharp spots and choppy waves created the perfect stormy texture. The entire way back to the house we were renting, I couldn’t stop smiling at my phone screen. 

A Sunset in My Favorite Place in Probably the Whole World


I haven’t been to that many places, but I’ve been enough places to know it’s odd that my favorite place in the whole world—possibly second only to room 139—is only a quarter-mile from my house. 

But a quarter-mile from my house, at the entrance to Cascade Township Park, there it is. 

The hill presides over the whole park, offering a stunning view when the sun sets. And when the sun sets, the whole world suddenly seems insignificant. Nothing matters, but that very moment and the ribbons of color that drape across the sky.

Wrapped in a blanket, as the chill makes its way through my layers of warmth, I feel at peace. Simply at peace. 

No fancy words. No purple prose. Nothing but peace. 

And I try to visit that hill whenever I can because it makes me remember why I collect sunsets. I collect sunsets because they are proof that I exist. They make me realize how much I matter and at the same time, don’t. 

Sunsets put everything into perspective. And they are reliable. They are the only routine whose presence is comforting to me; the only routine I’m okay with. There has never been a day in my life where the sun hasn’t set. 

I normally hate endings. But when the sun pulls the final curtains on the day, I can put my full focus into that one thing and allow it to carry me away. Sunsets are centering, reliable, beautiful. 

And every single one has a story. So this is my collection of sunsets.