Monday, October 18, 2010

Mystics of Morning

One morning last week, just before sunrise, I walked my favorite seaside path above the cliffs.  It was quiet, windy, cold.  And I was surprised to find others, solitary photographers, their cameras perched on tripods.  Patiently, they waited for the sun's rising, calmly confident, hopeful.  There were a hundred other things they might have been doing: running treadmills, reading the paper, checking voicemail.  But these mystics of morning chose this: to wait for the sun, though its arrival was routine, convinced this routine rising was all the world needed.

Sure enough, out of the east, above a gentle range: a brightness, a hint of light.  And the mystics went gratefully to work, working lenses and shutters and settings, noting the sun's determination and honoring it.  I want to live like that - preparing for the rising of the sun, believing in it, never tiring.  I want to train my lenses, shutters, settings to observe every epiphany - to honor every breath as something both routine and unexpectedly holy.

There's that old cliche about showing up - I'm not sure how it goes.  Something like: ninety percent of life is showing up.  It strikes me as especially true for the photographers on the cliffs.  Showing up is everything.  Timing the sun's appearance, getting to the right spot before the appointed hour.

I looked at the local paper the next morning, half-expecting to see a headline.  "Sun Rises Thursday Morning!"  Of course, no such thing.  The sun's rising is ho-hum, not the least bit surprising, we've seen it thousands and thousands of times before.

Or have we?

How often do I assemble the necessary gear - tripod, camera, the rest - before going to sleep?  How often do I climb out of bed eager to find the right spot, to watch what seems inevitable prove incredible?  How often do I sit still enough to watch a shadow creep across the living room floor?  There's really no such thing as ho-hum, is there?  No such thing as 'just another day.'  And that half-eaten moon out there's like one of those angels in the fields of old: "Gloria!  Gloria!  Gloria in excelsis deo!'  Glory to God in the highest.