There once was a time in my life when I spent the occasional week in Destin.
Late in the afternoon, as the sun was beginning to set, it was rather striking to see how many people gathered on the beach, or came out on their patios and decks to watch the fiery disc of the sun sink into the cool emerald ocean.
There is something magical about a sunset over a body of water.
But then there is always something magical about any sunset, and it is somewhat sad, and even rather foolish that nearly everyday that passes, I do not witness the setting of the sun.
When you think about it, it is really quite extraordinary that each day begins and ends with such an explosive and original burst of color seeping and spreading across the horizon. You’d think we would all pay more attention, the way we do when we are on vacation. But we do not take the time, nor do we consider the setting of the sun as we plan our evening’s activities.
Attempts to capture a sunset on film are often as futile as trying to capture the bubbles of seafoam dancing on the crest of the wave as it meets the shore. At best, the images we make of the sun’s flamboyant last curtain call can serve only as hints and reminders to prompt our memories to recall in our mind’s eye what we more than saw at the time.
And that is the nature of most things that matter. A painting. Music. A poem. It’s not the mere sight, the sound, the words. The thoughts and the feelings that swirl inside of us because we have seen, or listened, or read–the essential nature of an experience that changes our own.
I once told Michael Stern after a performance by IRIS that the piece had changed my life. He chuckled at that, since it sounded so absurd, but I explained to him that listening to it had changed me, and therefore it would change how I lived my life.
We need more beauty. More quiet and more music. More sunrises and more sunsets. As Eliot wrote we need to care and not to care, and find the balance of doing what we must, and living what we can.
Mr. Wu finds this balance in a boat with his buddies floating on the gentle waters of Pickwick Lake, spending all day, and all night on the water and under the arc of the sun until it disappears into the night.
Mr. Wu says the catfish bite by day deep at the lake’s bottom, and that the stripers feed at night, sometimes breaking the surface of the lake with their silver striped pajamas. He stays awake all night, absorbing the quiet and the darkness and the companionship of friends who demand nothing but friendship.
I asked him what he ate while on his trip–he said he took rice noodles, an orange, a pear, orange juice, and some tea.
There is a lesson there, one that is an underlying element of the Wu Tao Food Project. It would do us well to do less seizing of the day, and more savoring.
‘Tis the gift to be simple. A gift to be free.