Thinking About Sunrises and Sunsets

Thinking About Sunrises and Sunsets

This last week, I saw both a sunrise and two sunsets in one long stretch of sleeplessness combined with a road trip – following a stressful few days. As usually happens when I’m tired, I found myself waxing poetic about time and its passage…

life, and the choices we make along the way.


I remembered the words of photography coach Mitche Graf, during his seminar that I attended a few years back in Denver, Colorado.  After hours of photography speak, he shifted gears to more of a general life advice focus.  I didn’t get it at first and then it hit me like a freight train.  He told a story about birth and death and the significance of the parenthesis that follows the name of people who have passed on…such as: (March 3, 1892 – December 11, 1975).  Mitche said the significance is not in how long we live or simply that we live or the dates themselves.  The significance in that parenthesis, is in the dash that sits between the numbers.  The dash represents what we do with the time we’re given on this earth.  The dash is in a way our only legacy once we’ve passed from this world, to whatever is or isn’t next depending on your beliefs.

His very last words to us in ending the seminar were in the form of a question.  It was: “What will you do with your dash?”

We’re all given 24 hours in a day.  7 days in a week.  365 days in a year.  A certain number of sunrises, and sunsets.  Sometimes we’re present for both and sometimes only one.  And sometimes, neither – stuck in cubicles, never seeing the light of day.  But the hours between sunrise and sunset are truly where most of life happens.

I used to start my days late, almost as a rule, preferring to sleep in.  Because I’m self employed I am, in a way, always working against time to a greater degree than some.  I have to work harder to use my hours more advantageously with no one looking over my shoulder coaching me to greatest success.  I have to be my own coach.

Staying awake for two sunsets and one sunrise made me look at time a little differently and forced a promise I actually made to myself aloud.  No matter the schedule I keep, I want to make better use of the hours I’m given.  I want to die knowing I couldn’t have lived my dash any better.  I want to really savor as many sunrises and sunsets as I can.  I want to grab every adventurous and hopeful and optimistic opportunity I can to not only enrich my own life – but actually (and more importantly) the lives of others.  I’ll have to work at it every day, and I’ve already started to make changes toward this end.


What will you do with your dash?

Thinking About Sunrises and Sunsets

  • June 06, 2010

    beautiful! couldn’t be any more well written!

  • June 06, 2010

    Fabulous post!! I have a feeling he’d read this poem – I first heard it from my mother who had attended the funeral of a 15 year old. Beautiful and such a good reminder!

  • June 07, 2010

    good to know you are defining your dash and not others. you go, girl!

  • June 09, 2010

    Wow, what a beautiful post. I love everything Graf said about the dash… thanks for this today.

  • August 03, 2010

    I don’t know how I’ve missed this Kir! What a real, yet beautiful mix with a great story and great photos. Always love your sunrise/sunset photos. This idea of “what will you do with your dash” isn’t something that I’ve heard before, but really seems to ring loudly of Randy Pausch’s life and feelings on time. Reminds me of the Tolkien quote: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

  • April 17, 2011

    Lovely post, Kirsten!

  • January 22, 2012

    I was sent a link to your post, and am very happy that our “dash” time had an impact on you! Keep the passion, and stay focused on ehat’s important! Mitche Graf

Leave a Comment