I know I always say “treat of treats!” when it comes to hearing from different voices in the #rituals series. But I say it again today, because you not only get Guest Post Tuesday, but you also get Guest Post Friday – AND you get to hear from one of my favorite writers, dearest friends, and most sublime crafter of words, Micha Boyett. Enjoy a look into her family’s nightly ritual.
It was January when we moved into our house over a year ago. We’d lived in San Francisco for close to four years already, but we’d mostly avoided the Outer Sunset District, a neighborhood known for soul-less square houses and tiny front yards paved over into driveways.
San Francisco is a city that was built around the bay, not the ocean. Though its roughly seven by seven miles of land are surrounded by water (the city’s on a peninsula), any iconic pictures of our fair city are pictures of the land beside the bay. The part of town by the ocean is less photogenic, less praiseworthy, plain.
We knew we were choosing our neighborhood based more on practicality and affordability than on beauty. We’d made peace with that reality. Then we happened upon our rental house, built at the perfect angle of the hill, its living room windows overlooking the ocean from a mile away.
Day after day we watch all that water moving straight into the edge of the world, massive container ships leaving the SF Bay for the edges of China. I’m still amazed, like I discovered a secret gem in San Francisco, quietly hiding among the square box houses and paved over yards: Who knew we would find the ocean?
But what we didn’t expect, even after discovering the beauty of our lucky find, was how evenings in this house would transform our family time. The day we moved here it was warm, in the high sixties, and the sky was clear, untouched by the fog that our part of town is known for. We ate pizza on the back patio with the boys and sat down on the concrete just in time to watch the sun fall over the Pacific. Even our then two-year-old and five-year old quieted themselves as we stared at the path of the sunset. Falling, falling, falling, sink, into the water.
All humans are born with the innate knowledge that we need the sun, and that its path through the sky is our compass, our time-teller, our light-giver. It’s in our marrow to honor that gift from God.
So we watch it. Every day. Sometimes, if it’s warm, we stop and stand outside. Sometimes, we pause in the middle of dinner to stare. Sometimes just-out-of-the-bath my little boys are running naked and I’m shouting for them to put on pajamas, while the colors line the sky outside the windows. But always, we say it:
The sun is setting!
It’s sunset time!
Boys, look at the sunset tonight!
Sometimes friends join us on the patio to watch. Sometimes we stare from our windows, cozy, away from the chill of the wind. Sometimes the fog is too thick to make out much behind the gray sky. On the clear days, my husband is out on the patio snapping a picture for his daily collection of sunset photos.
But always we acknowledge the sun setting.
“Bye sun,” my now four-year-old says, mostly to himself, staring out the window.
There are no special prayers we pray in those moments, no liturgies of song or poetry. Just a unique sort of reverence, a realization that the sun has been sinking into the west for as long as the earth has spun, that long before our family set foot on this ground, people have stood in this spot staring at the same sun, the same sea.
Our ritual isn’t much. It’s simply a moment of acknowledging that God is up to something good, that God continues to whirl this world in its place around a star that warms us and gives us light, and each day wakes us up to the possibility that light brings life and breath and hope.
So we’ll keep watching, even in those moments when none of us have words for the miracle, the strips of orange and yellow and pink dripping through the sky into the dark blue of a still unknown sea.
Because miracles aren’t necessarily meant to be understood. Sometimes they’re just meant to be noticed.
Micha (pronounced “MY-cah”) Boyett is a writer, blogger, and sometimes poet. A former youth minister, she’s passionate about monasticism and ancient Christian spiritual practices and how they inform the contemporary life of faith. She is the author of Found: A Story Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer.Boyett and her husband live in San Francisco with their two boys. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook, and find her blog at michaboyett.com