A Sunset Meditation for Challenging Times

I hurry uphill, out of breath. Instead of sitting quietly at my altar inside, I push and pant to reach the top of the trail before the evening sun sinks from sight. The closest hills are across the valley on the west side of Seneca Lake, but farther west, I see rolling hills  thirty miles away.



When I reach the sunset bench, I want to sit, breathe, and watch the apricot orb surrounded by azure skies and luminous clouds.

Willow, my old lady Lab, waits with me next to the bench, breathing hard. Disco, the young mutt, has other ideas and keeps running uphill, around a corner toward the National Forest. I call her, give her a treat, put her on a leash, and walk her back to the bench. She watches me, waiting to see what will happen next.

I sit next to her, pause, and exhale deeply as the sun sinks down my spine and into my belly. I breathe with the changing sky.

“Why are we stopping here?” Disco’s round brown eyes seem to ask.

“Believe me, little girl, there’s no way to explain the healing peace of a winter sunset. Want another cookie?”

No matter how frightening or violent the world, I often find a moment of quiet at sunset. I listen to the crows, feel the beating of my heart, and watch the colors deepen toward night.


We had three calm days in the 40s this week, so it was comfortable to sit outside in winter clothes. How do you find respite or peace during the shifting challenges of our world? For other posts about finding peace on my land, see Give Thanks for the Teaching of Trees. For posts about finding peace during hard times, see The Comfort of Small Things.

  1. Thank you so much Elaine for sharing more of your beautiful heart and art during these challenging times. You know the first thing that came to mind whilst looking at your glorious sunset photos was the orange and black wings of Monarch butterflies. Winter sunsets are simply stunning, especially on clear days where those Mediterranean hot colours are so deeply missing from our borders and gardens. However, the month of March has arrived and tomorrow brings the Dark Moon, a perfect time to rest and reflect on a sunset bench before a new cycle and the season of spring begins. For respite and peace throughout February I followed Mother Moon and have read more poems last month than I usually do. On important days I also turn to the Tarot for deeper inspiration and soul guidance. Sending much love and light across the oceans and oaks between us, Deborah.

    • Those orange and apricot tones are my favorite sunset, butterfly, and flower colors. It’s been gloomy here the last few days, but we may have sun and a spectacular sunset on Friday. There were a few warm melting days to watch the sunset on the bench, but it’s too cold to sit outside today. This morning, I walked the dogs on the thin cover of crunchy snow with biting wind. The sunsets are spectacular from the bench and also out the windows since Vic and I planned their location in the old farm house to capture sunset views. I love your Moon Cycle Poems and will read many times before commenting–to say more than I love this poem and the goddesses you’ve named. You’ve done some magical weaving and connecting. As you know, I know almost nothing about the actual use of a Tarot deck although I’m familiar with many of the symbols. Maybe someday. Sending you love as spring sends up new shoots of green and early flowers there.

  2. You paint a lovely portrait, Elaine, inhaling & imbibing nature’s beauty. I too savor sunsets. This evening I saw the glow but missed the vivid colors you describe. All had melted into a misty lavender by the time I took my walk. Yet, I did see ducks launching east from the lake they’d been paddling in all afternoon.

    It strikes me that if you push the color wheel a little further back, the apricot and azure you describe become the yellow and blue of the flag of Ukraine, all I can think about these days. Loved ones are suffering, the world is holding its breath, and I pray for peace.

    • Oh, Marian. I agree with all you say about Ukraine. The usual cares of the world seem small because my sons are not in bunkers or subway stations in Ukraine and we’re all safe for the moment. I pray for this to end without more destruction and I’m holding my breath, too.
      I’m glad you have a beautiful place to walk which soothes the soul. That lavender glow in the mist sounds exquisite and it must also reflect in the lake. Spring birds are returning here and I look up and see flights of geese. I’m so grateful for the small things. May we all light candles in prayer for peace.

  3. Thank you, Elaine, for the two beautiful pictures of solace and inspiration from nature.
    I love the way you make your world available to the rest of us especially in dialogue form.
    I am happy for you that your walking companions come in the form of presence and receptivity wrapped up in warm bodies.

    In my 75th year, respite from roles & ego-based activity is becoming essential. So, more stillness and silence especially by being receptive to nature’s changing presence coupled with returning to my breathing as often as I remember.
    Thank you for sharing and being interested in our perspectives.

    • Patricia, I’m laughing at the presence and receptivity of my canine walking companions. They’re always interested when I talk to them. Maybe my jibberish will end in an adventure or a treat.

      I’m 76. A dear friend who is a Jungian trained art therapist alerted me to a book ‘The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul’ by Jungian Connie Zweig who also wrote ‘Meeting the Shadow.’ Your words reminded me of her title although I’m only 35 pages into the book. I agree this transition must happen, so the trick for me is to honor the Monarch material while keeping my focus on stillness and receptivity rather than getting caught up in anxiety about this book. Returning to the breath is my first practice and it’s helped me for 50 years, including getting back to sleep in the middle of the night during this war in Ukraine. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and our mutual interests.

  4. ah how glad I am to have some chores behind me and a day of less frenetic busyness. It’s a glorious day today – gardeners are chopping down the tops of trees and bushes which make the views even more beautiful and restful. How essential it is to see beauty, yet to know there is ugliness also. Beauty in Nature is healing and calming and this is the sense I get from your lovely post Elaine. The stars at night, sunsets and sunrises always does it for me.

    • I’m glad your life is calming down, Susan. My daily task is to remind myself there is no hurry. Winter is in the air today, but I went for a hike with the dogs in blowing snow. With only a few inches of snow on the ground, I can hike at home on my trails. When I wrote about sunsets, we’d had a few melting days. They’ll return (this weekend, for example) and all my small complaints are zero compared to the suffering of people in Ukraine and Russia and all over Eastern Europe. It’s an alarming time in our world, so much more important than ever to pause and watch the sunset. Also important to watch a new baby’s first smiles. Blessings to you and your family.

  5. Thank you Elaine. So beautiful, and so important to take in these beautiful quiet sunsets.

    • Aren’t we lucky, Harriet? Such sunsets! And, for reality therapy, I walked in a snow squall this morning, but every step was a prayer for Ukraine and for peace.

  6. Dear Elaine, you shared with us another fascination with nature, which took me away from these brutalities of humans in this world. Thank you and blessing.

    • The beauty of nature saves me–and I worry about human damage to the Earth. But for now, the sunsets are here to heal my heart.

  7. That sounds like a marvellous walk!

    • It was exquisite, and quiet once I got my young dog to calm down. They’re so excited by the smells as the snow melts. I’m excited to walk without trekking poles.

  8. Dear Elaine, Your photos of the spectacular sunsets are breathtaking, and the photo of the dogs makes me smile every time I look at it–I can just feel old lady Willow’s relief at being able to rest at the bench, and young Disco’s enthusiasm for what’s going to happen next.
    Nature is what most brings me solace in challenging times, though the brilliant colors of sunset show up for just a few minutes in our little valley, reflected off the snowy mountaintops (if it’s not raining, that is). Even though we get over 100 inches of rain each year, I find the sound of rain on the roof comforting (when I can be cozy inside with a fire in the wood stove), and no matter how hard it may be to get out walking in the rain, I always feel grateful once outside in it (and my dog most definitely does, though he feels no initial hesitation).
    Practicing tonglen brings a measure of peace as well. Yes, may we all light candles in prayer for peace.

    • Vic and I bought this land with a house almost too decrepit to save because we walked the land for the first time at sunset. The sunset sky broke through my concerns about the mess of a house. (It only took 30 years to remodel it!) I just checked and we get (on average) 38″ of rain a year and 61″ of snow. The dogs don’t mind either. Snow mixed with 40 mph winds like we had last week is overwhelming, but today the sun shines and I see the first Snowdrop buds in the flower garden. Spring will come.

      Willow is a gentle sweetheart. Disco is also sweet, but she’s just 2 and her youthful exuberance can be too much for her old auntie Disco so I always keep a ball in my pocket on a walk to discourage Disco from nipping at Willow’s ears to get a chase going. Disco’s brother has been in FL for the winter and when she runs with him, she’s relaxed for 2 days. He’ll be back with his humans soon. I couldn’t live here without my woodstove and just got firewood delivered for next year, so it has a summer to dry. Without tonglen, I couldn’t get a night’s sleep during this horrifying war following a horrifying pandemic following a horrifying president. All wars are horrifying and I’m grateful that, for once, the US isn’t the bad guy. Peace and hope.

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