Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Day 129 - Sunset Point

I have never been to Sunset Point. In fact, I was completely unaware of this scenic overlook on Madison’s Westside until Rachael brought it to my attention a little more than a month ago. Although I was skeptical of the view that could be obtained from a location in Madison’s generally low, unchanging landscape, Rachael assured me Sunset Point was a place worth visiting. Taking her at her word, I decided I would add visiting Sunset Point to my “I have never...” list and would eventually make a trip to the location to take in the view during a day in my “I have never...” year.  While I didn’t expect to make the visit at this stage of the journey, the timing of the sunset in the face of the changing seasons and the reception of some disheartening family news earlier today gave me impetus to make the trip this evening. My first experience with Sunset Point would prove the perfect setting for a quiet evening of reflection and contemplation at a time when my mind required both.

Following my workday I drove home this evening and picked up Rachael and the dogs. Together, we drove to Hoyt Park in Madison, the location of the city’s Sunset Point. Doing our best to the beat the fading sunlight, I followed Rachael’s directions, turning down a crumbling asphalt road held together with layers of patched blacktop. As we wound our way through the woods bordering the road I kept my eyes peeled for any sign of the scenic overlook. Although it was clear we were ascending a small incline as we drove down the road, I remained uncertain about the view we would encounter when reached the top of Sunset Point. It simply didn’t feel we were climbing terrain high enough to present any view of significance, but I remained hopeful the experience would not disappoint.

The first view
After a few minutes on the road we eventually came upon an old stone embankment built into the side of a hill. As we approached, the woods on our right started to dissipate until it eventually gave way to the view from Sunset Point. After parking our vehicle, I immediately stepped out of the car to gauge the sights offered by the location. To my surprise, the view from behind the stone wall was expansive, and the hill upon which it was perched towered over the cityscape below. Although the canopy of the trees growing in the side of the hill before us obscured some parts of the view, we could see for miles over Madison’s Westside and the surrounding suburbs. The orange glow of the late afternoon sun cascaded over the trees and buildings resting among the valleys and hills of the neighborhoods below us, continuing off to a distant horizon miles away. Though it wasn’t among the most beautiful scenes I have seen, the view was beautiful nonetheless. As a result, I quickly concluded Rachael was correct in stating Sunset Point would be worth the trip.

Fading light
As we waited for the sun to drift toward the horizon, Rachael and I took some time to take in different perspectives from the top of the hill and chatted about the buildings jutting out of the tree cover below. Eventually, we found our way to a bench resting on a knoll across the street from our vehicle. There we settled in and snuggled up next to one another. Buddy and Baxter were quick to join in, hopping up to our laps and taking a seat facing the setting sun. Over the next 30 minutes we sat and watched the sun slowly sink behind the limbs of the trees and meet the horizon. We periodically broke the silence of the space around us with conversation, but the majority of our time was spent simply being there, in the moments of the fading sunlight. We were content and comfortable and happy to be in one another’s company, and that’s all I really needed on a day like today.

I found myself thinking deeply in our final moments at the park. As the horizon eclipsed the sun on its journey toward a new day, I paused and reflected on the events that had brought me to that moment.  Among the brilliance and beauty of the yellows, oranges, and pinks cast across the evening sky, I thought about the amazing life I have been able to lead and about the experiences I’ve gained thus far from my “I have never...” experiment. While I won’t delve into the details of my thoughts, I will say there are moments in one’s life that thoughts resonate so powerfully that they burn into the memory of that moment. Watching that sunset today was one of those moments for me. With my Grandmother facing the final days of her life, the thoughts on life, love, and meaning that struck me at Sunset Point ran deep, and I know it wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t taken the time to slow down and make the visit to the park tonight.

The last moments of sunlight

With the last bit of sunlight fading into darkness, I shook myself from my contemplative state and looked over Rachael and the dogs. I gave Rachael and quick squeeze and kissed her cheek before I broke the silence. “Well, are you ready to call it a night?” I asked looking over Rachael’s beautiful face. She nodded her head before guiding Baxter to the ground and standing up. I gave Buddy a quick pat on the head before I did the same, which prompted us to walk back to our car and start the journey home. As we drove, my thoughts drifted back to our time at Sunset Point. In retrospect I realized I had experienced a beautiful part of Madison that was unknown to me before today, and the location provided the outlet I needed to work through some of the thoughts that rattled my mind in recent days. While it wasn’t the most exciting or challenging task in my journey, today’s “I have never...” event was exactly what I needed today, and that made every second of this experience worth it.

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