Saturday, August 14, 2010
A melodic guitar riff plays politely into my dreams. It is rare indeed that my cell phone alarm would be welcome at 5am, but the reggae stylings of Dispatch remind me that this morning is unique. I have a sunrise to catch.
A fairy-tale princess sleeps undisturbed next to me, and I’d like to keep it that way. It’s a Wednesday, and she doesn’t share my luxury of being off today. I slip out of bed and dress with all the stealth of a Ninja Turtle. Escaping the bedroom unnoticed, I fill my backpack with the items necessary for the success of my adventure: gloves, camera, notepad, harmonica, apple, and water bottle. Once packed, I pull wind pants over my shorts, a hoodie and a winter coat over my shirt, and a sock cap over my head. It’s 36 degrees outside. I hate Winter.
At my front door, I take a deep breath and step out to meet my destiny. Cold and dark, even before the Atlantic winds are ripping through my being. Why did I wear flip-flops?
I have chosen this morning, March 17th, 2010, for two reasons. The first is for research. The main character in my novel is to experience a Virginia Beach sunrise in March; thus, I will do the same. The second is because daylight savings was three days ago, and every day from now until fall will bring an earlier and earlier sunrise. I can’t get up any earlier than 5am. It’s un-American.
I start my car and adjust the heat to 350. Once my fingers are capable of fine motor skills, I begin thumbing through my CD case to ensure an integral component of this experience. I pull out the Mae* EP entitled “(M)orning” and feed it to my expectant CD player. It will serve as my soundtrack during the hour drive to Virginia Beach, but one song in particular will be my anthem. As fate would have it, “The Fisherman Song (We All Need Love)” is written about watching the sunrise at Virginia Beach in the name of art and creation. The first two minutes of this 9-minute epic thoroughly set the tone for my morning:
Tonight I find it hard to sleep.
Each sound and squeak I hear
Keeps me staring at the ceiling.
Oh it's dark as night outside
And I can't stand
The quiet that it brings me.
And I got too much on my mind.
I think it's time to take a drive
And leave it all behind.
I’ve got a song that's halfway there.
I think it needs the ocean air.
I’m gonna grab my guitar
And get in my car.
Oh, I need some understanding.
I need a little love.
Gonna speed down to the ocean side
In a race with the stars above.
With my guitar in hand,
And toes touching the sand.
I can see the sun is coming.
Colors fill and crack the sky
With purple silver and golden light,
Drawing the day from night.
*Mae has long been a favorite band of mine, but only recently have I come to learn that they grew up in the very area I now live (They erected a Habitat for Humanity home 10 miles from my apartment in Hampton, VA).
The drive is surreal. My lingering sleepiness likens the dotted white lines of the highway to the starry night sky on my right, which is slowly being overtaken by the coming dawn on my left. The countdown has begun. Sunrise is at 7:14am.
6:35 – I park on a deserted street so close to the beach that my foot slides on loose sand as I step out onto the road. I pull my coat close, grab my bag, and head into the wind.
6:47 – I am settled against a dune formed by the previous evening’s high tide. A few gulls stand lifelessly around me, seemingly as expectant as I am. My frigid legs and toes find relief as I fold them into my hoodie and coat. The dark waves lap endlessly before me, their caps glistening against the pale horizon.
7:00 – The breeze carries the melody of my “E” harmonica across time and space. Even with the tumult before me, an inner calm pervades my being. A man runs by in front of me. The first human I have seen all morning. His feet slap loudly against the hard, wet sand, and I realize my song has changed to match his rhythm. He doesn’t seem to notice.
7:10 – Again, all is quiet. I take the opportunity to pull myself out of reverie and take a few pictures. I hate submitting to the harshness of technology, but a picture is like the first dance of a newly wedded couple or the musty smell of a childhood home. It will serve to pull me back to this moment for years to come.
7:13 - I move to the waters edge, just before the soft, cool sand gives way to the compact ocean floor. There I stand, my eyes pulling in the coming dawn, my lungs accepting the vital breeze. The cold wind and ocean spray on my feet are nearly unbearable, but this is why I’m here.
Electricity pervades the air as nature seems to slow down, allowing Sol to rise from the depths. Something like a rainbow splits across the horizon, with the deep blue of the night sky above me fading to white, then to yellow and orange along the horizon. This tapestry climaxes around a celestial disc of brilliant red coming from just beneath the water, emitting the first crepuscular rays of morning. An unforeseen surprise: I am seeing the sun from beneath the ocean, from beyond the world’s end.
Following its due pomp, that phoenix of old abruptly arises and stretches its wings across the earth below. The ocean is ablaze, and the veil of darkness shrinks to nothingness. My eyes can stand no more. I look down the illuminated shoreline. Receding waves smooth out like glass and reflect a streak of light nearly as bright as its source. The blinding glow still plays in my eyes, causing the sun to flash brightly each time I blink them.
7:25 – Within minutes of first light, the sun is high in the sky, its fire painting all below in shades of brilliant gold. The world is alive. Seagulls float on the breeze above my head. Cyclists ride by on the boardwalk behind me. The street beyond fills with cars. The moment has passed, and here I stand.
Suddenly, I become uncomfortable with the buzzing activity around me, as if all this life has burst into my private thoughts without asking. I gather up my things slowly, still breathing deeply and moving the sand gently beneath my feet. I take one last look upon that scene of beauty and thank God for all he has done.