MDR and I are fulfilling one of our dreams (I resist calling it crossing an item off our bucket list) by living at the beach for the month of September. We’ve talked about what it might be like for 26 years and finally we are getting a chance to do it. That’s not to say it’s a vacation – it’s more of a part of figuring out where we head to next. We both brought work out, there aren’t days lingering on the beach, but it is a break in routine.
I’ve been getting up at my usual time, setting myself up with a cup of coffee and my front row seat of the breaking day from the dining room table where I can keep an eye on the computer and the dawn. Now, I’m more a moon rise girl myself. It could be the Cancer birth sign; it could be that I love the moon in all its phases; or it might just be that my eyes are bad enough without burning my retinas. In any event, I never have to wear sunglasses to be out in the moonlight.
This morning, for some reason, I woke up for the day 30 minutes earlier than usual. When I looked out the windows, there wasn’t a hint of a horizon, just two streetlamps burning in front of the hazy silhouettes of houses bathed in sleep.
I made my coffee wondering what came next. Usually, when I head up the stairs dawn is well underway, but today it could have been three hours before sunrise, instead of 90 minutes, the darkness was so complete. I noticed the nearly final sliver of the waning moon just passing Venus, the very bright morning star. (It took a little patience and all my google skills to confirm that it was Venus on www.earthsky.org – my new favorite website.)
As the usual Outer Banks wind had abated overnight, I went on the porch to take a photo of the light beginning over the horizon just below the moon and Venus. It was so peaceful that I got my coffee and brought it out to drink while I sat in a deck chair and settled in for the show.
The brightening of the horizon is first a paler black, then gray, then what I would just call light diffused over the horizon, separating the sky from the ocean. Pink comes into play next (especially when there are clouds) and it darkens to a salmon color before deferring to the light.
It was going to take some time for the sun to fully rise, so I set my timer and did my morning meditation there on the porch. The quiet was only broken by the occasional car going down the beach road, other than that it was perfectly still. Next I opened my eyes and said my morning prayers, studying the brightening horizon, looking for clues as to how my day would run. Would it be a clear, cloudless course of things I needed to get done? Or would clouds gather and obscure the goals ahead of me?
The light was spreading along the horizon over the entire ocean, but the center of the light, the power of it was moving inward, slowly, surely with the purpose it has served for millennia.
Finally, the birds started stirring in the grasses near the beach and the bushes around houses in our neighborhood. (“Ha! I beat the birds,” I thought.) I was getting a little antsy with the sitting – after all there was e-mail to read or Facebook to check, but some impulse kept me there watching, keeping my own vigil to this particular morning.
I realized that I was more interested in what went on before the sun hit the horizon: that diffusion of light, that gathering of power. When the sun finally sped up and rose in what felt like a fluid 30 seconds, I immediately wanted my sunglasses and to sit behind some cleverly angled shades that would let me see the ocean without squinting.
And it was in that moment as I got off the chair, gathered my mug and my camera to head inside that I realized what I wanted to see was the process behind the day starting. I wanted to feel the power rooted in the mystery of early dawn, the gathering of energy, the rush to the goal of daylight, before the sun relentlessly illuminates everything.
I could apply that fascination to nearly everything – writing, included. I like the processes of figuring out what to say, rearranging the puzzle of words until they suit me. It’s been a challenging few months in which I’ve mined deep for the words for these mileposts and a couple of times I’ve been tempted to say enough.
But in the darkness, watching the moon lose its luster to the grandiose bluster of the sun, I was reminded that it’s the gathering of the ideas and spreading them out that brings me back to the computer every week. I’m so glad I stuck it out to the finale.
Laura Reeth lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with the man of her dreams. With kids off at college, she no longer plays the role of active, day-to-day parent, and has moved into the complex understanding-parent-of-nearly-adult-children role. The main difference is she gets more sleep now.