Things You See at Sunset

I am riding my bike at sunset. I’m doing this because I am a writer and I can’t find anything to write about. So I went pedaling.

Not knowing what to write about can be frustrating for a writer. Sometimes you stare at a screen for hours trying to think of something, but nothing happens. Finally you end up resting your head on the keyboard and falling asleep. When you wake up, it’s suppertime and your screen is full of text like:

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My wife suggested riding my bike. So far I’m having a wonderful time riding through nearby neighborhoods, waving at people, dodging speeding SUVs driven by teenagers who are typing important text messages. It’s great.

You can see a lot of life happening in a neighborhood at dusk on a summer night. For instance, I saw a man in his front lawn who was practicing fly fishing.

He was wearing a floppy hat and a pocket vest. He tossed a long rod back and forth and I almost wrecked watching him. I’ve always wanted to learn how to fly fish.

I waved and asked, “How’s it coming?”

“Fly fishing is hard,” he said. “But I’ve always wanted to learn how.”

Me too. I grew up fishing the more traditional way—with lures, jigs, and non-lite beer. But I have a longtime dream of learning to fly fish, standing in some distant river, nestled within the Purple Mountains Majesty.

“Good luck!” I say, whizzing past his front yard, dinging my bicycle bell like a dork.

I pass another house with a wide porch. I see an elderly woman and a small girl. Granny is teaching the girl to sew. I hear them talking. Granny’s voice has the tone of a teacher. The girl is watching Granny with serious eyes.

I’m glad grannies still teach little girls to sew.

This granny, however, is not your typical old woman. She wears shorts and has muscular legs. She doesn’t look like the grannies from my childhood. Our grannies wore bib aprons and dipped snuff. This granny is either a weightlifter or a former Soviet gymnast.

Which brings up something I’ve been thinking about lately. Have you ever noticed how today’s old folks look younger than your grandparents looked?

When my granddaddy hit fifty-five he retired and began pulling his pants up to his nipples. He looked old, acted old, and sat in a rocking chair. By the time he was seventy, there was moss growing on the north side of his shoulders.

But today seventy-year-olds bench press Buicks, take kickboxing classes, run ultra-marathons, and can even eat raw onions without acid reflux. We have come a long way.

Granny is showing the girl how to use the needle to make a basic stitch on a piece of cloth.

And I am reminded of my mother, who was a seamstress from the day she was born. Throughout my childhood strangers would always appear on our porch asking my mother to alter their clothes. And hapless brides would need rescuing from wardrobe disasters.

Granny waves at me. “Evening,” she says. I can see the muscles in her legs flex.

I look at my own scrawny legs. I look like a guy riding an ostrich.

In another front lawn are two brothers and a dad tossing a baseball. I know immediately which game they’re playing. They are playing “horse.” The rules are simple. Whenever anyone drops the ball, that person gets a letter. First one to spell “horse” loses.

My father and I would play this game every single summer evening. He was a baseball fanatic. Some of the greatest memories I have are playing catch with my father until sundown. And we often played past sunset until one of us lost a tooth. I still miss him.

I wave at the ball players. They wave back. I shout: “Are you ready for this season to start?”

They all nod and give the thumbs-up.

Everyone is ready for Major League Baseball to return after months of delay due to the pandemic. Though it won’t be the same. There won’t be any fans in the stands. And less games. A typical baseball season has 162 games. There will only be 60 this year.

Even so, some of us are excited. COVID-19 is horrible stuff, but it couldn’t kill the spirit of baseball. And I’m glad it didn’t.

I keep riding. I pass a house where a man in a wheelchair sits parked in his driveway, wearing a surgical mask. An older woman is behind him, trying to hoist his limp body into the front seat of a Toyota. But she is having a tough time.

So I pump the brakes. I’m planning on helping, but I am too late. Because a teenage girl jogs across the yard, barefoot. She has come from another house across the street to help.

I hear the older woman holler, “Oh, thank you, Marcy!”

Marcy looks fifteen or sixteen. Blonde and lean. She is the kind of girl my aunt would say needs to eat one extra biscuit.

The girl lifts the man from the wheelchair and into the front seat. Single-handedly. I am dumbfounded. The girl folds the wheelchair and loads the heavy implement into the trunk. It all happens so fast I’m not even sure I saw things right. Did that small girl just lift a grown man?

Marcy trots off. The man in the front seat waves goodbye to her. “Thank you!” he shouts.

“You’re welcome!” shouts Marcy.

And just like that. I know what I’m going to write about.

20 comments

  1. Lita - July 17, 2020 7:02 am

    Wow.

    Reply
  2. Martha Black - July 17, 2020 7:14 am

    Observation is the key. How much we miss when we don’t go out and observe, on purpose. Sometimes you got to be purposeful about it. We all look, but we all don’t observe.

    Reply
  3. Steve Winfield [Lifer] - July 17, 2020 8:27 am

    My wife had to put a password protect on my phone because sometimes I fall asleep in the recliner holding it. I send those 732 random letter text to whoever. Some folks think it’s funny. Some don’t. Like your boss at 2:30 AM. So my phone now locks itself & I have to put a PIN in before I can text or call.

    Reply
  4. lisaweldon - July 17, 2020 8:52 am

    Is there a limit as to how many times we can leave comments? I love every single one of your essays. Thank you for keeping us on track during this pandemic…keeping us right with ourselves…and seeing the good in life. Bless you.

    Reply
  5. Cathi Russell - July 17, 2020 9:52 am

    Marcy is magnificent & thanks for telling us about her! I haven’t been outside to observe much lately because of the heat but you’re right, you learn a lot just walking or biking around.

    Reply
  6. Blinders & Barbs - July 17, 2020 11:10 am

    My wife is more of a stare bear than me. But like you, I need to learn how to fly fish. I also need to learn why I’ll need to use barbless hooks. Where I come from, we’ll eat a fish. There’s no sense in giving one the opportunity to spit my hook. Humbug!

    Reply
  7. susufl - July 17, 2020 11:42 am

    Sean, you’re correct about us old people today — we’re not old like our grandparents were. Instead of orthopedic shoes, I wear Chuck Taylors. At 72, I was selected for the senior dance squad for the Orlando Magic and performed at NBA games. Satchel Paige said, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” And that’s the secret!

    Reply
  8. Naomi - July 17, 2020 12:00 pm

    I am a 76-year-old woman and I still wear shorts and when I go out, I wear a baseball hat. I was thinking about my grandmother who died of a heart attack when she was my age. I couldn’t even imagine her in a pair of shorts and a ball cap. She didn’t even have a pair of slacks. She wore dresses that went down to her ankles and put her hair in a bun every morning. She never wore makeup or jewelry, except for a broach. Not too long ago, I found a picture of her with her four children when she was a young mother. She was very pretty, but I never knew her when she was young; she always looked old to me.

    Reply
  9. Liz Bishop - July 17, 2020 12:02 pm

    Your blog is a great start to my day! Puts a smile on my face every time.

    Reply
  10. Jo Ann Walton - July 17, 2020 12:35 pm

    Hello Sean,
    I have been reading your essays for a short while and really enjoy them. And I have thought to myself, how does he write something so good every single day?!
    Have you watched the International Space Station fly over? You can find its schedule for your location at spotthestation.nasa.gov It’s fascinating to see!
    Thank you!!

    Reply
  11. Shannon Windham - July 17, 2020 12:54 pm

    Love this! We always played HORSE with basketball instead of baseball. We’ll have to give baseball a try 😊

    Reply
  12. MR - July 17, 2020 1:04 pm

    Dear Sean,

    Thank you for making the every day things in life appear so significant. . . .because they are!

    Blessings to you,
    M.R.

    Reply
  13. Dianne - July 17, 2020 1:28 pm

    Your statement about grandparents not looking like our grandparents used to look reminded me of the Sunday I had gone to church with my son and his family. I happened to see my English teacher from my senior year sitting in a pew. She was in her 80s. I walked over and told her hello, hugged her neck and told I was back home visiting my son and his family. I pointed them out to her, especially my grandchildren, and she thought for a moment then said, “Grandmothers sure don’t look like they used to look!” Now, my grandchildren are parents, and most people my age still don’t look or dress like our grandmothers did.

    Reply
  14. Terry Kinman - July 17, 2020 2:07 pm

    After reading this it has dawned on me, maybe this virus is a wake up call. Humans need to get back for caring about one another. Lives don’t revolve around technology but around each other.
    I am happy to see people getting out more in their neighborhoods and sociallizing.

    Reply
  15. Linda Moon - July 17, 2020 4:39 pm

    You not finding anything to write about is absolutely apocalyptic! I saw LIFE in my neighborhood last night, too….a celebration of NEW LIFE as family gathered to celebrate the birth of a baby girl. I’m glad your biking led to stories from your neighborhood, Sean. Even Fred Rogers couldn’t have outdone any of these. And it’s not the end of LIFE as we know it!

    Reply
  16. MAM - July 17, 2020 4:52 pm

    A bike ride or a walk will always bring something to write about. Thanks for going for that bike ride and bringing us a little bit more of your writable and readable life!

    Reply
  17. Charles Mathers - July 17, 2020 6:25 pm

    Our grandparents lived before machines replaced humans doing things. Grandma beat batter in a bowl. Today we turn on a Kitchen Aid. Your grandpa wrestled tires and wheels and transmissions and pushed reel lawn mowers. We turn a key in a switch and ride it around. Your grand pa retired at 50 because he was worn out. Your grand ma never retired because she was a grandma but her forearms were bigger than your legs. She made wonderful biscuits and your grandpa could take that old car apart and put it back together again. I can’t even imagine that kind of strength.

    Reply
  18. Charlie - July 17, 2020 6:29 pm

    Sean , if someone got all their news from your writing they would think the world is filled with wonderful people. They would be about 99.9% correct. Most other media only cover the .1%. Keep on doing what you do the world needs it. Thank you.

    Reply
  19. Melanie - July 18, 2020 1:32 am

    I would love to read about two things I sorely miss… lightning bugs and summer thunderstorms.

    Reply
  20. Joyce Bacon - July 24, 2020 12:11 pm

    Thank you Sean. I think some of my favorite columns are the ones you had nothing to write about. And this one tops the list.

    Reply

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