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updated: 1/24/2012 2:54 PM

In our busy world, it's easy to miss an incredible January sunset

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  • Did you happen to look out your window at 4:50 p.m. Jan. 6 and notice this fabulous sunset?

    Did you happen to look out your window at 4:50 p.m. Jan. 6 and notice this fabulous sunset?
    Courtesy of Stephanie Penick


With instant news and constant content online, chock-full of opinion and other pitches, what's a columnist to do to offer fresh insights on the printed page? What'll make readers think or take a break far from the madding crowd?

Those thoughts are among the burning questions that interrupt the focus of many folks in the newspaper business these days.

In fact, this newspaper presents updated stories online all day long. About 4:50 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 6, I happened to look out our second-story bay window, noticing an unusual rosy pink color streaming in the bands of cumulus clouds in the blue sky. It'd been a warm day with temperatures in the 50s all day.

Naturally, I grabbed my camera and headed outside. I couldn't believe how quickly the clouds were moving and the dark was beginning to set over the blazing color of the sunset rays. As I looked westward, the ground appeared to be a great big ball of fire. The black structure of the bare ash trees, standing erect with their oval shape all along the parkway, created full bursts of contrast against the backdrop of the sunset.

Snap after snap, I was surprised at how different each photo appeared from practically the same spot.

I flashed back to all the times I had stood on my driveway facing east, in almost the exact same spot, camera in hand, to capture the Independence Day fireworks blasted over Knoch Park at the end of the Exchange Club's Ribfest.

In fact, some of the photos of the fireworks have a striking resemblance to the photo of the January sunset.

Many days I'm not paying attention to the hour of the sunset, especially in January. Sometimes, I'm not even near a window. I began to wonder how many sensational sunrises and sunsets I've missed here in Naperville.

All the next day, I anticipated that evening's sunset. I imagined that everyone who had seen Friday's sunset was equally as eager to repeat the experience.

About 4:45 p.m., I began to watch. Nothing happened as darkness shrouded my view of the vast sky as it touched the horizon in the west that Saturday. No red sky appeared that evening in Naperville.

Every day this month, I've been watching for another stunning sunset. And every day, I've counted my lucky stars that I happened to look outside on Jan. 6 because none of the twilight hours has come close to creating that indelible image of calm and peace.

Over the years, I've equated beautiful sunsets to photograph with vacations in the Caribbean or out West. Who would have thought I'd see one of the most memorable sunsets from my own front yard in Naperville?

Our world provides many, many reasons to pay attention -- here, there and everywhere.

• Stephanie Penick writes about Naperville. Email her at

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