Painted Skies

November 3, 2007 | 20 comments
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My God paints the skies for me.

This evening, my intermittent running habit kicked in, and I put on my shoes to run a few miles. The forecast wasn’t great — I’ve been fighting a nagging shin splint for the past few weeks; plus, I haven’t really been eating right this week (too much Halloween candy around the house).

I walked my warm-up lap around the block, stretched, and started to run the usual route of streets to the park and back. My legs already felt sore, and I wondered how I’d fare. Would I even be able to eke out one or two miles?

And then I turned the corner, and saw it.

The sun was aglow like a halo, behind a faint layer of mist. All above it, clouds layered in a cascade of iridescent pinks and whites. Tiers and columns of clouds spread out in overlapping patterns, opening up like a funnel from the point of sunset until they covered a quarter of the sky. The clouds were feathers, mazes, a castle with spires. It was breathtaking, and I couldn’t help but gasp in astonishment.

I ran, and the sunset followed me.

I turned at the mile mark, and the sunset was still ablaze, fiery and spectacular. Every time I looked up and caught the light, I felt energized. Music and sunlight pushed, and I finished my run with the best time I’ve had in months.

And I knew that God put that sunset up for me. He knew I was running tonight, and He knew that I’d be struggling, and that I could use a boost. And He doesn’t reach down and physically push me along. But He paints the skies for me. I’ve got a Father who paints the skies for me.

*

As I stepped into the house to get a quick cup of water, I thought I should get a picture of the sky. And so I grabbed my camera and went outside, to snap some photos during my cool-down walk around the block.

The sunset was gone.

The spectacular layers and lines had faded almost entirely. The whole sky was gray and solemn. It was strange, and then I thought, God put it up when it was needed. It was for me, and now it’s gone. And I felt a mixture of sadness and elation. Sad, that I couldn’t share the sunset with anyone else. Elated, that God cared enough for me, individually, to give me that gift.

I walked around the block, and took a few pictures of faded clouds, and thought about how to describe the sunset. And thought again, wow, I guess that’s it. The sunset was for me alone, to push me when I needed it. God painted the skies for me, just for one run, just for a moment. And I knew I’d write about it, and words would have to be enough.

And then, at the last corner, I looked back, and the whole sky was alight again. Not quite as spectacularly as before. The sun itself below the horizon; the clouds not quite as brightly lit. But the pattern was the same; it was an echo of the same wonderful sunset.

And I smiled. God painted the sky for me once tonight, to help me run, with a dazzling sunset that seemed to last forever. And He had lit up the painting again one more time. The original was gone; and I don’t know if I could have captured it in a picture anyway. But the same painter had sent this echo, so that I could take a picture to remember and share.

I snapped the picture.

And then I went home, to ponder the wonder of a God who paints the skies for me.

20 Responses to Painted Skies

  1. Ardis Parshall on November 3, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    Kaimi, you painted a sky for me with your words. Like Father, like son.

  2. box on November 3, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    that’s nothin’ compared to an Arizona sunset.

  3. MLU on November 3, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    I was looking at and thinking about a print of a Vermeer painting all week and thinking along those lines. There are moments of beauty scattered through all of creation–a sunset, morning light on a girl’s hair, backlit pine needles–that are powerful reminders of something powerfully good going on, along with whatever else is going on. . .

  4. Kathryn Lynard Soper on November 3, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    beautiful, Kaimi, times two.

  5. mmiles on November 4, 2007 at 12:06 am

    This is great Kaimi!

  6. Mark B. on November 4, 2007 at 12:45 am

    I rode my bicycle down to Pathmark this evening. Just a few blocks down Court Street, then east on 9th across the Gowanus Canal, through the Lowe’s parking lot to the bike rack just inside the gates. The whole southeastern sky was ablaze in bright pinks and orange, made even more striking by the contrast to the black skeleton of the BQE bridge–must be 120 feet high at its peak (it has to be high to allow the Hamilton Avenue drawbridge to rise under it). Ten minutes in Pathmark, and the show was over, replaced by the dull gray of dusk.

    But what a spendid show it was while it lasted. And, no, not an Arizona sunset, but a beautiful Brooklyn sunset.

  7. Tatiana on November 4, 2007 at 1:02 am

    Isn’t it great that he does that? It’s so intimate, even in its grandeur. Oftentimes looking out an airplane window I get that same feeling. The gratuitous beauty everywhere is overwhelming. And it’s just for me. Usually nobody else in the whole plane is even looking. What precious jewels He strews at our feet daily. How was it I never even noticed them for so long?

  8. dsilversmith on November 4, 2007 at 1:32 am

    As I walked tonight I too noticed the sunset.

  9. meems on November 4, 2007 at 11:24 am

    That’s lovely. Photos never do justice to the real thing though; these are such pretty pictures, and I’m sure the actual experience of your sky was 10 times that. We sometimes have seen gorgeous skies here in our new home in the desert.

    I had to read the title and first line about 4 times on this piece, because I thought you were saying that God paints your skis. Like the things for the snow. And I was really anxious as to what kind of post this was going to be…

  10. Eve on November 4, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Kaimi, you nature writer, you!

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  11. MLU on November 4, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    As the Creator loves His creation so creation loves the Creator. Creation, of course, was fashioned to be adored, to be showered, to be gifted with the love of the Creator. The entire world has been embraced by this kiss.

    —Hildegard of Bingen

  12. Bob on November 4, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    “air pollution enhances the beauty of a sunset. And pollution does indeed change the appearance of sundown, but whether it tips it in the direction of beauty is a matter of personal taste—and the overall amount of that pollution in the air.”
    Sorry..it’s from the fires.

  13. Tony on November 4, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    Beautiful pictures. First thing I noticed was the palm trees…Rats lived in the ones we had in our neighborhood when I was a kid in Houston. Don’t have to worry about that in S. NH/Boston area!

  14. Patricia Karamesines on November 4, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    Sweet!

  15. Rosalynde Welch on November 4, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    This calls for some Gerard Manley Hopkins:

    THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
    Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
    Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
    Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

    And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
    And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
    Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

    Kaimi, where you differ significantly from Hopkins in your apprehension of God in nature is your confidence that your own subjectivity is central to the meaning of the event. I wonder, is yours a scriptural conviction? That is, are there any passages of scripture that express your sense that your own personal experience is formative of God-in-nature? (I’m not saying that your thoughts here are at all invalid if they’re not echoed in scripture; I’m just wondering whether yours is a modern experience of God or an ancient one.)

  16. Alison Moore Smith on November 4, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    I’ll notice tonight. Thanks.

  17. Bob on November 5, 2007 at 12:09 am

    #15: “… is a modern experience of God or an ancient one” The Rainbow (?)

  18. Todd Wood on November 5, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    thanks

  19. Chad S. on November 5, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    thanks

  20. Adri on November 9, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    Beautiful piece. The simple gifts are the best.