Burlington, VT sits on the Eastern edge of Lake Champlain. Across from Burlington on the western edge of the lake are the Adirondack Mountains of New York. If you happen to be in Burlington in the evening of a clear day, the sunset over the Adirondacks can be spectacular.
I happened to be in Burlington in the evening on a clear day recently. I was also on the shores of Lake Champlain at the same time. The sun was staring to dip towards the horizon when I noticed a flow of people building up on the bike path where I was sitting. I realized that these people all wanted to watch the sun set behind the mountains across the lake.
I noticed one couple. They were good-looking, maybe late twenties, well-dressed, and looked like they were at the water’s edge just for the sunset party. They were both dressed in outfits that looked like they matched up very well-light shirts with khaki style shorts.
As the sun got close to the horizon, I watched this couple get set up for the famous “selfie”. The woman snuggled against the man’s shoulder, fixed her hair in the camera’s view, adjusted her shirt, and snapped the picture. They examined the picture, swiped a couple of times on the phone, and settled in at a different angle for another shot. They followed the same routine of snuggling, adjusting, fixing, and snapped another picture. After huddling over the camera, they followed the same routine for a third time.
When they finished taking their three shots, they huddled over their phone and started typing. First she started, then he took out his phone and started typing. I wondered about their identity. Were they Instagram influencers? Were they Burlington celebrities? Were they a couple on a weekend trip to Vermont?
The longer they spent typing away on their phones, the faster the sun set behind the Adirondacks. As this went on I started to get annoyed. Didn’t they see the sun setting? Was this all about them? How can they be hunched over their phones and not be present in a setting a beautiful as this?
This was when I realized that I was not being present in a setting as beautiful as this. I was not watching the sun set behind the Adirondacks. I was so consumed with this couple and the fact that they were missing the sunset because they were too focused on themselves and posting their perfect picture that I was missing the sunset.
Once I caught myself in this place, I focused my attention back on the sunset. Why should I care what someone else is doing? I can’t control their behavior, I can only control mine. If I want to give away my enjoyment of a sunset to them, that is on me.
I turned back to the western sky and watched the end of the sun’s decent .It was as good as advertised. As people started to drift away from the waterfront, I also stood up to leave. I happened to look down to the water and there sitting on a rock was the couple. Their phones were nowhere to be seen and they were both looking out across the water. She had her head on his shoulder and they looked happy. I reminded myself that I shouldn’t worry too much about other people and what they are doing. They just want the same thing as me-happiness.