Northern California Sunrise

In the stillness of the world at the breath of dawn, I stand upon the deck of my longest home in this lifetime. Balanced upon the edge of a mountain, this house faces South poised in anticipation for the winter sunrise. A thick layer of pearly fog lies like a downy blanket over the valley below and stretches to the edges of the world. During the depths of the night the fog poured in from the ocean like wolves running stealthily over the Western hills. Yet it all lies calm before me now, appearing as a flat field of snow in the shadow light.

I am set high above the world, my vision unobscured by the fog, like a queen in an unwritten fairy tale, with a clearer view of the heavens than the earth below. As dawn approaches the veils of night are pulled back one by one, turning the sky from midnight black to a misty periwinkle. Where the sky descends to kiss the horizon it blushes a vermillion and rose glow that spills out onto the duvet of fog and stains it a pale magenta.

In the moment before sunrise the surrounding world holds its breath. An outline of pure, molten gold appears on the fog’s edge at a single point on the horizon. A moment passes. Then two. Not until after these moments have gone does one realize the sun has already begun to rise. These brief minutes are the only time of day the sun casts its long shadows with a coral-hued light. A wide scene unfolds below as the dark curtain of night is rolled back. The sun reveals the peeling olive paint and the warped boards of the deck upon which I stand. Growing on the railing are faded lichens entangled with brown pine needles that fell long ago. Pine cones become one with the balcony wood as they are overgrown and once more return to an earthy wholeness. Each ancient iron nail that dares poke its head above the surface of the wood casts a timid shadow. Yet the disrepairs of home can be forgotten in these brief minutes at the day’s commencement.

Each needle of the pine overhanging the deck fades from teal-black to a rich green in that moment when the sun ascends above the horizon. Secret crevices in the tree bark are momentarily unveiled as light pours in to awaken any sleeping creatures hidden during the night. A solitary hummingbird rests upon a slender branch. He is an old friend; the dancing hummingbird we call him. With each dawn, music pours forth from the open glass doors of the house to act as an instrumental mirror to the sunrise. The dancing hummingbird sways in rhythm to Grieg’s “Morning Mood” from his Peer Gynt Suite. A light breeze picks up the melody while the yellow California grasses whisper back in a sighing harmony. The air is crisp and fresh with the scent of dew upon the flowing breeze.

The winds descend into a small vale directly below the dilapidated deck and rustles amongst the foliage. The breeze turns the leaves in every direction revealing their pale bellies to the sunlight. Some leaves glimmer silver in the dawn’s light, others sparkle with a gold-copper tone. The little valley rises in the South-West to meet a low, rolling hill covered in a sea of short emerald grasses. The proudest feature of this hillock is a pair of redwoods growing side by side, one slightly taller than the other, standing like an amorous couple fixated only upon each other.

The redwoods are the only obstruction to the view laid out below me on the balcony. They hide the scene that lies beyond and also frame it, giving the view both perspective and depth. Beyond the redwoods stretches the melting blanket of fog which cannot remain under the sun’s rays. It dissipates into isolated patches and finally becomes nothing more than memory. Below, the interwoven valleys stretch on, filled with layers of misty trees backlit by the new sun. Full clarity has yet to come into the scene. Just beyond the edge of the last definable tree comes the golden glint of a vast expanse of water. The sun will never reach into the expansive deep that lies below the imperceptible waves of that bay. The morning sky unifies into a pale blue and the last stars are veiled. The sun reveals the earth only to hide the heavens. Everything the sun reveals will also cast a shadow and nothing in this scene will ever be entirely visible to our eyes or our minds.

Photo by Richard Tarnas

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