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The grace of the sun

The grace of the sun

Watching the sunset at Clinton Lake has been Grant's ritual when things get tough. 

Whenever I get the chance, I drive south out of Lawrence just past K10 highway on a back road to Clinton Lake. I park in my usual spot, angled toward the impending sunset and take a moment to enjoy the view.  

The sky, reliable as time itself, fades from a light blue to a golden yellow and deep orange, eventually giving way to near darkness. It has become my self-soothing ritual for whenever things get tough.

I always go back to one of my earliest memories, crying myself to sleep the day I found out my mother died. My brother, 9 at the time, sniffled to himself in the matching twin bed next to me as the cartoon cowboy mural filled the wall behind us.

That’s just the kind of mother she was — the kind who had matching denim bed sets in a cowboy themed bedroom for her sons. Regardless, the breast cancer that took her far too young persisted, and left one skeptical son in its wake. 

At 6, I was forced to face the permanence of death before I was even capable of processing it. This moment served as the foundation — or lack thereof — for my spirituality the remainder of my childhood. I’d needed a God and no one showed up.

I was never satisfied with the lessons learned in Sunday school or Wednesday night bible studies. I’d move through life processing the why’s and how’s of moving forward that follow immense loss. Why me? Why now? How do I move on? The technicalities of who and why all of this existed seemed lost on me.

At church camp in seventh grade, my already struggling belief broke. Everything suddenly felt so meaningless, as I realized that no amount of singing, praying and scripture would bring my mother back, rid the world of pain or even make this all a bit more bearable. It was overwhelming.

Several years later, with our heads bowed in prayer at church on a Sunday morning, I looked up and realized everyone else in the congregation seemed committed to a belief I couldn’t understand. It was then that I accepted I would never understand this point of view, and I felt at peace with that. A weight was lifted when I realized I could stop trying to believe. 

Until I saw the dedication to belief that filled the sanctuary, I was convinced no one actually believed in God. So I stepped into the world with a newfound understanding in myself and my beliefs.

Then I moved away to college. Where, honestly, I never even tried to go to church. It wasn't what I wanted or needed to do. I had more to learn about the world and myself and church just wasn’t where I was going to find those things. I’d already tried that for the previous 18 years. 

I found rituals in other things. So there I sat, perched on my bunk bed on the sixth floor of my college dorm room to watch the sun set over Daisy Hill every night.

Streaks of blue and pink and orange and red filled the Lawrence sky day-in and day-out and another 24 hours of freshman year were crossed off the calendar. Whether I was crying over my Philosophy 180 homework or the frat boy that wasn’t texting me back, that sunset was right there as the most dependable part of every day. 

In these brief moments of stillness, the brief moments of reflection, I felt connected to something bigger than myself for the first time in years. 

The cherry red pews of my church turned into the torn leather seats of my car and the altar became my dashboard driving out to Clinton Lake whenever things ever got tough or I just couldn’t shake a feeling of loneliness. I’ll turn on “Golden Hour” by Kacey Musgraves (the quintessential sunset album) and watch the sun inch down into the crescent of the earth. 

I think of the heartache and grief of my childhood and the life I’ve built in the years since. It all begs the question, is there a higher power? Is there more out there than meets the eye? I haven’t found an answer that works for me yet. I’m not sure I ever will. But I do know, if I ever find myself stopping to look at a sunset, I make sure to take a deep breath and let myself feel the warmth of another day closing. 

I let go of myself; the triumphant wins and deep losses in this lifetime and I hold on to the hope of the future and the permanence that the sun will rise again and time will keep pressing forward. I let myself feel the power in the hope of something greater and some days, this is all I need.

Edited by Connor Heaton

Person 1: This song slaps.

Person 2: Your mom slaps.

Person 1: Thank you, my mom is a kind and wonderful lady.

 Person 1: I’m so sick of alcohol.

Person 2: I don’t know, I’m getting stronger every day. I love it.

Person 1: Do you do the vegan wrap here?

Person 2: We can do the chicken wrap with no cheese?

Person 1: I’ll take the Beyond Burger please. 

Person 1: Oh my God! I feel like I know you somehow…

Person 2: Yeah, we went to high school together. 

Person 1: Oh! *walks off*

Guy 1: Is the black market even real? Has anyone ever been on it?

Guy 2: I tried once but I couldn’t figure out how to get on.

Guy 1: I stayed up until 2 am watching Disney plus

Guy 2: I told my girlfriend I fell asleep but I was actually watching the Mandalorian.

Girl 1: How long have you guys been dating?

Girl 2: Since the summer, well actually for like two years but it’s a long story.

Girl 1: Who are you looking for?

Girl 2: This guy, wait I found him. Fanny pack boy. He flipped off my professor after a test and ran out of the classroom.

Girl 1: How did you choose KU? 

Girl 2: Honestly, I flipped a coin. 

Boy 1: Did I tell you? I think I had a threesome this weekend.

Boy 2: Woah, hold up. You think?

Boy 1: I was born a Phi Delt.

Boy 2: Please don’t ever say that again.

Girl 1: How do you get your boobs to look like that?

Girl 2: I don’t ever wear a bra? I don’t know. 

Girl 1: I just really want a guy to bend me over you know?

Girl 2: How do you know? You’re a virgin!

Guy: Sometimes I wish I could just be a dog and sleep all day. 

Girl: You wake up at like three every day. 

Guy: I know.

Girl: So…

Guy: So does that make me a dog or something?

Girl 1: I wish I was a little bit taller.

Girl 2: I wish I was balder.

Girl 1: I wish I had a...wait, wait, wait balder?

Guy 1: Let’s slap dicks

Guy 2: You ever pee and it feels like throwing up?

Woman 1: *holding baby* He would have been safer at the Hawk

Woman 2: Oh absolutely.

Girl 1: I would never date that guy.

Girl 2: Well, it depends how much money he has.

Girl 1: I’m going to the doctor to see if I have bronchitis before I hook up with him again.

Girl 2: Yeah that’s smart so you don’t give it to anyone else. 

Girl 1: No I mean I want to make sure I infect him.

Guy 1: I'm cutting some of my unnecessary costs, starting with Juuling.

Guy 2: Ight man, good luck.

Guy 1: Actually I might just start chewing

Guy 1: How was work?

Guy 2: My manager was chastising me for not dressing up in a Halloween costume, she doesn’t understand I’m strictly here to get paid.

Guy 1: I am so tired of this week, man

Guy 2: Dude it’s Monday

Guy 1: I know

Person#1: I want to be on the first ship to mars

Person#2: Not me, I doubt they have Wi-Fi

Perons#1: Yeah but at least they’re evolving up there. We’re all just devolving.

Girl 1: Um, I don’t eat pig.

Girl 2: You eat bacon all the time, bitch.

Guy 1: You better get going. 

Guy 2: Yeah, see ya. I’m off to get some Adderall.

Girl 1: Are you home right now?

Girl 2: Yeah, why?

Girl 1: I bought a cat

Girl 1: I just don't understand what fishing is for.

Girl 2: I don't know. Food, maybe?

Guy: I’m just gonna have to like carry an entire box of spiders up the hill tomorrow.

Girl: What?

Guy: Yeah, just like a hundred spiders in a box.

Guy 1: Sometimes ya just gotta give yourself a haircut.

Guy 2: Dude, you shaved half your head. That’s not a haircut, that’s a mess.

Girl 1: Can you eat fruit raw?

Girl 2: How else are you supposed to eat it?

Girl: That class is killing us. ​But they say rest is for the dead.

Guy: Well, at least we'll be rested.

Girl: She's not in class this semester

Guy: Maybe she's dead

Girl: Or studying abroad