The Soft Light of Sunset (Day 44)

Camera: Tru-View (vintage Diana clone) || Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64 (EPR) (expired 1989) (xpro)

Camera: Tru-View (vintage Diana clone) || Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64 (EPR) (expired 1989) (xpro)

The day is ending when our hobbits begin to miss the sunsets of the Shire.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 11 (p184 50th Anniv. Ed.)
Having traveled a great deal on my own I know a bit about the loneliness that takes over come dusk. I though this was something that only I experienced, that it wasn’t a nearly universal thing. Here, Tolkien writes: “The hobbits thought of the soft light of sunset glancing through the cheerful windows of Bag End far away.”

That longing can eat away at you if you’re not careful. You’d think that it would be worse if you stopped before dusk, but it’s not. Maybe it’s the business of setting up camp and fixing your evening meal that keeps away thoughts of home. All I know is that if I’m on the road when the sun dips too close to the western horizon, I feel an aching that can only be relieved by stopping.

I first read about someone else feeling this in Peter Beagle’s I See By My Outfit, a memoir of two friends traveling across the country on scooters. It’s fitting as I felt it more when doing my own cross-country scooter ramble.

‘In the late afternoon the sun comes out long enough to go down, and it begins to et lonesomely cold. We stop for coffee in East Stroudsburg [Pennsylvania] and consider. We have planned to camp out as much of the way as possible, but there is something sad and frightening to both of us in watching the day waitresses at the Dairy Queen going home. We would marry them right now, just to have a place to go. Other people have their own scary times of day and get married them.’

In another passage, Beagle expounds upon this:

‘We always stop driving before sunset, partly in order to set up camp while it is still light, but partly, I think, because the hour before dark is a strangely lonely time to be driving something as small and open as a scooter as far away as we are. The thin orange light is going away so swiftly, and yet our own lights seem so feeble against the thickening air.’

The Lord of the Rings, while being about light and dark, duty, honor, friendship and a slew of other things is, essentially a book about a road trip. In so many ways, it’s no different than any other account of hard and dedicated travel. The hobbits are walking all day, from just after sunrise to just before (or just after in today’s case) sunset. They travel the same way that I travel – with an unstoppable consistency. Also, we both camp. And while I’m on a Vespa (or these days, in a car) much is the same simply because of the very nature of travel.

I See By My Outfit is easily my favorite travel book. It was written by the guy who later wrote The Last Unicorn, which places it in the late 1950s. It was a different country then. And just as I can relate my present travels to their wandering of six decades ago, they related their own travels to Tolkien.

‘”It’s like The Lord of the Rings,” I say. The Lord of the Rings is a fantastic odyssey written by J.R.R. Tolkien, and it forms part of our private Gospels…. “The beginning of the journey,” I say, “the first night on the road to Mordor. This could be Bree, I guess, the edge of the wild country. What could Ann Arbor be?” We are detouring to Ann Arbor to visit friends.

“Rivendell, where the elves live,” Phil says happily, “if I remember what Kisa looks like.”‘

A Few Notes:

  • I cannot recommend this book enough. Oddly, it wasn’t this book, but my own whatever, that made me want to travel across the country on a Vespa. Before I even got a scooter, I longed for that journey. I finally did it in 2008, traveling over 10,000 on two 12″ wheels. I covered something like 28 states without a single breakdown (until the night I returned home to Pennsylvania, when my rear tire went flat).
  • I’m not sure I could do it again. But I hope someday that I will.
  • Usually, I write about Lord of the Rings or Middle-earth, but today I digressed. I like that. I’ll do it more often. Also, tomorrow I’ll talk about Trotter the wooden shoed hobbit. I think he’ll become a man. If you want to refresh yourself on the story thus far, click here, okay?

As an aside, I’ve been trying to think of other social media ways of getting word out about this blog. Mostly, I think it would help me stay on target, but also I think it would help me learn more about Tolkien through even more discussion. My first thought was Facebook, but as I know from personal experience, only about 10% of your followers get to see the stuff you post. There’s also Twitter, but it sort of annoys me. Should I not bother? Should I set aside my cranky misgivings and do one or the other (or both)? Thoughts, please.

About the Photo
Because most of my photos are taken on the Road, and because I stop before sunset, I have very few photos of the westering sun. This is one of the only ones, I think. It was taken in Frenchmen Coulee in central Washington. It was a long day and we were out too late, thus I was cursed by a lens flare


  • Miles today: 6
  • Miles thus far: 211
  • 30 miles to Weathertop Summit
  • 249 miles to Rivendell
  • 1,568 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: An encampment by a stream.(map)

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15 thoughts on “The Soft Light of Sunset (Day 44)

  1. Man, this is great! And as for your thoughts on getting the word out:
    I use facebook, and yes, it’s roughly 10%. but even the 4 readers I have made it worth connecting. (And they would say the same.) And as far as twitter, it’s a huge gaping hole waiting to be filled with work like this! And if it annoys you, you never actually have to use twitter after you connect it to your blog. just connect it and let it automatically post a link for you whenever you post on here. An email follow button would be great too. I read most of my favorite blogs right in my email; I never even visit the site. I know many others who are the same. It helps when you don’t see much traffic, to know that you’ve got 100 or so email subscribers who are reading it in their inbox.

    Those are my thoughts. This is a great blog, and it would be a shame for people not to know about it!

    P.S. I can give you some twitter tips to help it work for you without you having to actually use it. I’ve used it that way for a while. Oh, and thanks for liking my post from today! out of curiosity… how did you stumble upon it?

    • Hey thanks! I found your blog through the Tolkien tag, but since I only “like” posts that I actually read and enjoy, I actually read and enjoyed it. I appreciated the Mr. Rodgers bit

      I do a Civil War blog and use Facebook page for that. I’m able to track readership, and notice that I only get about 60 hits a day from Facebook (out of 1000ish). But that blog is a totally different monster than this one, with a much different audience.

      I even used twitter for a bit there, but had no desire at all to tweet about the CW, so I stopped. I think I might actually enjoy tweeting random things about Tolkien. Mostly I’m old and cranky, I think. I need to get over myself.

      The email thing is a good idea, too. On my CW blog, my host mainly banned it, so I just stopped. But no such problems here.

      Thanks!

      • Awesome! I almost never tweet or get on twitter, unless I get a message, but I use the sharing option when I post and usually attach tags. It doesn’t do a lot on that blog, but it works better on the comic book thing I did for a while called twentylist.com, which I quit doing and need to restart in a modified way. It was a way to write about comics because I enjoy them as down-time, low-brain-power reading, but I found that, by doing the reviews every week, comics were becoming work. Nope! Not that last vestibule of casual fun! Haha! My recent post was actually about that, oddly enough. It was the result of pondering the idea of doing something kinda/sorta similar to your site, but with posts about what I found interesting/insightful/life-related about a certain issue of a comic book.

        Anyways, It was great to meet you, man! I wish you all the best. And I’d love to put your posts in my email for afternoon reading if you decided to throw an email widget up there. Cheerio!

        • For me, I guess I feel like I should be using Twitter like a normalish person. It’s sort of a lifestyle choice signing up (it’s like buying anything made by Apple – which is why I’ve never bought anything made by Apple).

          Seems like you have the same drive that I do to nearly institutionalize things we like. I have had a blog for every major thing I’ve done in most of my adult life. I blame that on doing zines before the internet was invented (and a bit after). Everything had to be put down on paper. The lesson I have to learn is that not everything I do needs to be read about by others. This is why I’m basically closing the travel blog (and why I closed my music blog). At this point, I have only the CW blog (which ends next year) and my photograph blog, which is ongoing.

          I’ll put up the email thing. Due to the wonky theme I use, it’ll be at the very bottom of the page.

  2. [tries really hard not to make JJ Abrams joke about today’s photo]

    [fails]

    w/r/t social media: I have a fb page for my blog (you know this), but I’m kind of too lazy to do much with it, so I rarely get much traction from it.

    Twitter, though. I kind of hated twitter for the first two years I used it. I think mostly cos I was following the wrong people and worrying about whether people were bothering to read the stuff I posted.

    Once I figured out that I should just start TALKING to people (I started following people whose blogs I follow instead of just Neil Gaiman), it became totally different for me. I prefer it to fb for daily use (although there was a SN for a time that was way better than twitter and I wish it’d caught on, but that’s not pertinent now), and could probably delete my facebook account without seeing much difference in my daily traffic.

    If you join twitter and I’m not your godfather, WE CAN’T BE BEST FRIENDS ANYMORE.

  3. SJ got me into Twitter and now I can’t leave it alone. She is an ENABLER! Seriously, though, I find Twitter to be a lot more interactive and fun. I have WordPress post to it and that tweet goes to my FB page.

    Lovely post today. I have lots of memories of driving cross-country, too.

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