I wake before the sunrise to watch it come up.
In the safety of the warmth inside the cabin, I huddle up against the window and look out along the vast and might Lake Superior, not 20 yards away from me. There is a lone streak of color in the sky.
Sunrises are so different from sunsets. When the sun goes down, you know what you are working with– you follow the light with your eye until it is gone. When the sun comes up, you don’t know exactly when or where it will breach the horizon. My understanding of the inevitability of the sun’s rising is clouded with sleepiness and the illogical doubt that waiting for something unseen always brings– what if, this time, the sun doesn’t come up?
My chest is tightening in the way that happens when I come up on the edge of something meaningful. I know there are Things to Worry About back home. Pushing away that anxiety isn’t easy, but I work to breathe it away.
The lake is like a vast frozen canvas. Not clean like for ice-skating, but choppy and dramatic, its contours are difficult for my eyes to process in the low pre-dawn light. From my vantage point, the shoreline is obscured by a bluff so I can’t see where the waves would be breaking if it weren’t frozen. But then, after focusing long enough at the endless muted white of the lake, I realize that it’s actually moving– it is a massive grey-white body flowing so slowly that it is undetectable to a roving eye. Motion this slow requires utter stillness to be observed. It can’t be seen by searching, only by letting go. As I breathe and wait for the sunrise, my eyes become still and unfocused.
As the cold takes hold through the winter, there will be a moment when the waves slow down so much that they finally stop. The wave will pause-mid lull, and move no more. I wonder if it is possible to notice the gradual cessation of movement. My mind’s eye draws a graph of the asymptote approaching total stillness, it paints a picture of the molecules that continue to move even within a ice cube frozen solid, it tries to figure out the question of what does stopping look like? My head is foggy and I give up the game.
In the early days on this planet before man arrived to chop and carve and edit and write about it, there must have been scenes like this. Early earth could not always have been hot and seething and angry, there must also have been slow cold churning times too. Scenes like this make me think in grand terms of distance and time. Superior sunrises could make philosophers of pigeons if they could stand the cold.
Time passes. The sun is fully above the horizon by the time I see it. It rose, as it always does, but cloud cover obscured its passage across the horizon so, in a way, it didn’t.
The water is off in our cabin because the temperature was around -40 degrees last night and human appliances break it that sort of cold. I gingerly bolt outside to fill a pot with snow to melt and make coffee with, or at least just wash my face.
It is early. I am tired. No one is asking anything of me. I could go back to bed, but there are so many things I want to do. I could write, I could read, I could go for a walk, I could take photos, I could stretch. I want to take advantage of this time and this place and sleep feels almost wasteful.
Take advantage– those words sound so manipulative and self-serving in today’s language. What other phrase is there? Why should I be afraid to say it? Take advantage. It seems to imply that my gain comes at the expense of someone else’s, that to fulfill my possibilities requires making a doormat of someone else. But the sun is glowing gracefully, and the air is so cold it makes the colors seem different, and the pot is sizzling over the stove as the wet snow crackles to announce its transition to liquid form. I will take advantage of this. I will participate in this morning. I will appreciate it for the possibilities it offers and I will believe in my heart that, in this moment, my own advantage doesn’t cost the world a thing.
In the sunlight, I can see that the lake is completely frozen. I no longer trust my memory to know whether it really had been moving before. Most likely, I was under the guise of a mirage in the frozen desert, but maybe the molecules across the throbbing lake really did cross the threshold into stillness during the time I was writing about it, but probably not. This day is happening, with or without me.
Ease on over to the next little bit of writin over here
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