I don’t have the photograph of the exact sunrise, just the picture in my mind. And no words describing it will suffice so I’ll have settle for telling you the surrounding story.
Imagine yourself on a once in a life time trip, sailing in Fiji-not to the tourist places, but the remote islands of the Southern Lau Group. You are with your six closest people whom you dearly love to spend time with…a rare occurrence, so having 32 days together for this adventure is amazing.
Even with these kinds of friendships though, many years of working, traveling and vacationing together, conflict can happen. Though we were on a 90 foot yacht with plenty of room for all to be separate or connected-your choice-the early mornings were the hardest to share as we would all want to be above deck in the open (no canopy) to see the sunrises and have our various morning beverages.
People do mornings very differently from each other.
Those of us who liked to wake up slowly, in silence, were getting up earlier and earlier to beat the coffee-fed, spring-into-the-day people. I’ve always liked solitude at sunrise above any other time so I found myself setting an alarm so I could be up first to have my alone time. SETTING an ALARM…on a YACHT…in FIJI for god’s sake!!!
We were all therapists. Our life’s work was to teach people how to take care of themselves, and that everyone’s needs are important…so of course, we came up with a great new rule.
On deck in the mornings, “no one speaks until the person up right before you speaks”.
So all seven of us could be up on deck, coffee or not, meditating or not, and it would be silent until the first person awake spoke. And then in order after that, so the transition from silence to party-time was slow.
One one morning I was the first on deck and it was still dark out….as dark as it gets under those South Pacific skies. Don’t even get me started about the starlight. People talk about a “blanket of stars”, well our nightly view was more like a down comforter of stars.
But Half-Light was slowly arriving, bringing with it the beginnings of this morning’s Sky Show. It looked to be a good one. The next 15 minutes were some of the most profound in my life thus far. As I said before, no words will adequately describe the beauty and miracle of this particular sunrise so I won’t even bother and it’s my process I am needing to share anyway.
For once, I am sitting there actually hoping for the next person to come up on deck. I’m waiting, wanting, willing someone to hurry up and get here so they can see this. I know I won’t be able to describe it. You’ve seen one sunrise, you’ve seen ’em all, right? (Makes me think of the bumper sticker so popular in Hawaii a few years back-“just another shitty day in paradise”.)
By now, the sky is exploding into colors we humans have no names for, and it seems to be getting more intense by the second. Most mornings I fight off the feeling of intrusion and today I would welcome someone, anyone, just to share this with, to confirm my experience, to validate my conclusion that this might be the most beautiful thing that has ever happened in the history of the world.
Where the hell is everyone?
I am seriously frantic for company by now but unable to pull myself away to rouse my fellow travelers or the crew because I don’t want to miss even a second of this. It changes dramatically every time I blink.
THEY NEED TO SEE THIS!!!
I am about to explode in frustration…I know, on the deck of a luxury yacht anchored off a deserted island in Fiji..about as dumb as setting an alarm clock… so I take a few deep grounding breaths to calm myself and that’s when it happens!
Wait, for context, I need to own the following. At this point in my life, I had lived solely and enthusiastically for the purpose of helping others better their lives. I had been like this since I was three or four years old. I had been told I needed to stop always putting others first, to be healthily selfish, to take care of myself, but I had staunchly refused because, after all, I was “called”. What’s also true is I didn’t want to give up the joy and reward I experienced because of my stance in life.
So here’s what happens.
Watching the most beautiful sunrise ever, I hear a voice, no shit, a real voice, tinged with just a touch of playful sarcasm…God? My Dad? My Therapist?…I don’t know but it’s a voice….maybe even my own.
It says, “Relax Silly. This one is yours…made just for YOU.”
My whole personality changed that day in the Half-Light.
Looked out my living room window Easter morning to see THIS!!
It took three tow truck companies and finally a flatbed truck to save the car from its destiny of a crooked life!
Next door neighbor’s guest left late on Easter Eve and said she had to swerve to miss the Easter Bunny. (We do have a ton of bunnies around these days…)
I guess we are a pretty animal friendly community.
-Some one gave me a gift…a polar fleece vest…in the ugliest color…bright fuchsia?! Not a color I would ever choose or wear…too fake looking….and didn’t that person know that pink is way too “girly” for me? I put it in the closet…way in the back…
-A couple of years later, I am on a Spring walk with my camera, in search of new flowers. I come across a stunning flower, the brightest color for miles around (or so it seems). I have these thoughts, “there are so many colors in Nature that we just have not been able to duplicate. We don’t even have names for some of the colors we see in a sunset or a flower. This flower is a spectacular color!! I wish I had something to wear in this color…”
I pick just a blossom leaf or two to take home. I put them in my pocket.
-That same week I am doing a closet downsizing for a Goodwill run and find the never worn, long-forgotten ugly pink vest tucked way in the back…..and then I remember those bright colored petals!
I blushed about the same color!
Needless to say, it has become one of my favorite things to wear. I even got socks, a scarf and shoes with a stripe in the same color!
Now I’m wondering if I owe my gift-giver an apology…….
So what’s a Woody station wagon got to do with half light?? Well, growing up in the town of Pacific Beach in San Diego, if you were a true, pre-popular craze surfer, you would be up each morning at Half-Light, to high tail it down to the beach for the best and least crowded waves of the day. A tourist to the area might look out a motel window and see weird dark shapes bobbing up and down way out beyond the shore break. They might even mistake them for a flock of strange sea birds out there. Nope. Those were the most dedicated wave-riding artists…waiting for their wave…however long it took.
“Surfing is one of the oldest practiced sports on the planet. The art of wave riding, is a blend of total athleticism and the comprehension of the beauty and power of nature. Surfing is also one of the few sports that creates its own culture and lifestyle.”
No idea who first used a Woody station wagon to drag surfboards to the beach but it became the vehicle associated with the surfing culture.
The following info from http://www.carponents.com/content/surfs-up-with-the-woodie-one-of-americas-most-iconic-cars-176
“In the early 60’s, Surfers, who spent their days riding those bodacious California waves all afternoon always seemed to be strapped-for-cash. In need of an inexpensive form of transportation, they found they could buy woodies cheap, and that they were perfect for lugging around the long 10-12 foot wooden surfboards of the day long.
While not really their goal, surfers prolonged the lives of countless Woodies. It was something of a California oddity but surfers didn’t actually restore their wagons, they couldn’t afford to. They simply kept them going. Groups like the Beach Boys in songs like ‘Surfing Safari’ began to mention and immortalize Woodies in their lyrics, about how they were loaded up with boards and friends and driven to the California Coast and they forever became ingrained as a beloved icon of the surfing community as more and more were adopted by the laid back, fun loving culture. The connection between surfing and Woodies became permanent. It’s also said that surfers were the ones who coined the term ‘woodie’. “
Now here’s the sort of personal part. For some reason, when I was a very small child, we had a Woody parked inside our fenced back yard. I honestly don’t remember why or where it came from. I don’t remember ever riding in it, although we did have another station wagon, a white mercury with red trim and red leather interior, that we rode in a lot. That Mercury was the transportation for many of the childhood adventures my Dad provided for his daughters. Most of those adventures involved deserted country roads with us riding on the opened tailgate, strapped in for safety with a make-shift rope “safety belt”. But we never rode in the Woody.
Maybe Dad had the foresight to know that old Woody was a good investment. I do remember it sitting out there until well into my adulthood. Sometimes, when I was visiting my father, a later version of a young surfer would ring Dad’s doorbell to ask about that old car in his yard. My sisters might know what happened to the old Woody. I don’t.
And here’s the really personal part. Many times as a child (according to family legend, as young as four and five years old) I would be discovered before first light, out in the back yard, with my pillow and blanket from my bed, sitting on the hood of that old Woody, all bundled up and leaning back against the perfectly slanted windshield…..doing WHAT, the adults could never figure out.
It’s no mystery to me. Though I don’t remember specifically thinking about this, I’m sure it started out as escape. Maybe if I woke up early enough, and “ran away” to the back yard, I wouldn’t have to start on all those chores no five, six or seven year old should be responsible for (changing diapers, cleaning up, making breakfast, etc.)
And to my lifelong delight, I imprinted on mother nature from those Half-Light escapes, on the absolute beauty and wonder of it all, even the most simple of its forms.
I still love the earliest morning, with its slow but dramatic light changes, the songs of awakening birds-in the spring full orchestras-and the emerging hints about weather for the day. These days, I rarely need it for “running away”, but nothing grounds me more solidly and spiritually onto the earth than sitting outside in the half-light, in almost any weather, eavesdropping on the world as it wakes up.
I am not a poet. I am barely a writer at all. Well, for fun, I torment my family members or closet friends by occasionally writing them a really bad limerick. If I am going to be impacted by poetry it is usually in the form of the lyrics to a great song. The one that came immediately to mind for this week’s topic was Jackson Browne’s “Looking East”. My favorite Half-Light is sunrise (looking east).
Powerful song. Great poetry. If you allow songwriters to qualify as poets.
Have a listen (and a look-it’s a lovely video) when you get a minute.
Here are the words so you can read along.
Standing in the ocean with the sun burning low in the west
Like a fire in the cavernous darkness at the heart of the beast
With my beliefs and possessions, stopped at the frontier in my chest
At the edge of my country, my back to the sea, looking east
Where the search for the truth is conducted with a wink and a nod
And where power and position are equated with the grace of God
These times are famine for the soul while for the senses it’s a feast
From the edge of my country, as far as you see, looking east
Hunger in the midnight, hunger at the stroke of noon
Hunger in the mansion, hunger in the rented room
Hunger on the TV, hunger on the printed page
And there’s a God-sized hunger underneath the laughing and the rage
In the absence of light
And the deepening night
Where I wait for the sun
How long have I left my mind to the powers that be
How long will it take to find the higher power moving in me
Power in the insect
Power in the sea
Power in the snow falling silently
Power in the blossom
Power in the stone
Power in the song being sung alone
Power in the wheat field
Power in the rain
Power in the sunlight and the hurricane
Power in the silence
Power in the flame
Power in the sound of the lover’s name
The power of the sunrise and the power of a prayer released
On the edge of my country, I pray for the ones with the least
Hunger in the midnight, hunger at the stroke of noon
Hunger in the banquet, hunger in the bride and groom
Hunger on the TV, hunger on the printed page
And there’s a God-sized hunger underneath the questions of the age
And an absence of light
In the deepening night
Where I wait for the sun
Uh oh. Is this allowed??? Inserting a YouTube music video??? I haven’t taken my blogging course yet!
It’s from https://www.youtube.com/user/SWPLifeIlluminated
(Scott Wright Photography, not the Socialist Workers Party)