I work in academia, so even though I've gone from grad school to professional staff, the rhythm of the year revolves around the student calendar. That means the summers see most staff on vacation, using up days off, and otherwise being out there. While our summer has taken quite awhile to get here, the days and nights could not be more unlike the warm, dark huddling of the winter around a hot meal and warm drink. That is pub weather. This is deck weather.
I like towers. When I was growing up, there was a beacon tower within sight of our house. It was kind of a reassuring presence, knowing that even in those most solitary moments, the world was still going on.
I can see seven of them from my house now. We live halfway up one side of a valley, and the other side has a lot of repeater stations and the like. There’s one in particular I can see from upstairs. If I time it just right, I can see it shift from day mode, where there are two bright strobe lights on, to night mode, where there are five red lights, three of which flash. It’s like when you see the crescent moon, with the crescent on the left side, waking up before dawn: the world is still going on, even when you can’t catch up with it.
Shortwave radio is much the same for me. There aren’t as many stations out there as there used to be here in North America, and many of the ones we get are in other languages. Because of the internet, most international broadcasters don’t see a need to use this older technology. It makes me wistful and sad. But there are still thousands of broadcasts, signals, languages, messages to spies, and everything else on the airwaves. The world is still going on.
There is little serendipity to me with the internet. The same way there isn’t the anticipation and magic of taking pictures with a digital camera, there isn’t the need to just get lucky and find something outrageously new. Nature can throw us that as well. With these sunsets, I keep waiting to see another green flash. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, when the atmosphere is just right, just as the sun falls below the horizon, there’s a bright green flash. It’s rare. I take all of these sunset photos in the hopes I’ll see one again. It’s been a few years. There is serendipity to it.
Because like the tower, like the broadcast, the sun is always falling below the horizon, just as it’s always rising. Someone is eating lunch somewhere, someone else getting ready for a first date. Someone is getting ready to open their bakery. And somebody, somewhere, is waiting to say goodbye. There is never a boring sunset, never a case where I’ve seen it from the same spot so it grows old. I love the clear nights and the amazing colours, sometimes crossed with contrails. Or with clouds on the horizon, forming these blazing orange canyons and valleys that look like they harbour kingdoms of their own.
If I hurry back from these sunsets, while the glow of dusk is still in the air, the pleasure boats thundering down the Portage Canal, the twisty highway leading back to town, I can just get upstairs and see the tower change from day to night.
Because we can never have too many reminders that the world is going on. We close our shutters to capture a few shreds of it.
Words and photos by Kevin Hodur. Previously calling suburban Chicago and Portland home, Kevin now lives and works as a writer on Upper Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Catch more editions of The Road Rarely Traveled with next month’s See You in September…and look out for a special edition Roadtrip coming soon!