This morning I do what I have been promising myself to do all this week of spectacular sunrises over the valley—every one of them unique: I watch the day dawn. I don’t mean glancing up from my computer screen every few moments to see how it’s coming; I leave the light off, and the computer, and sit in the deep dark and wait.
Yesterday I read four blog posts that had come in over the past few days and have been sitting in my inbox. One from my former pastor Mahan, writing in North Carolina about the ministry. Two from the former physician in the nation’s capital documenting his journey into dementia. The third a Juneau, Alaska friend of my sister’s writing about Thanksgivings with her young adult children.
The dawning begins with a dim circle of white light between the nearby Douglas fir and the decapitated St. Helens, still hidden in the darkness. As I wait, I think about the stories I read yesterday. It brings me joy when seemingly disparate events or things I read or something someone says—or all three—enter me with such a synchronicity that it kind of takes my breath away. It multiplies the power of any one of them standing alone. It’s a message I need to hear and the Universe clearly wants to be very sure that I do. That’s what happened yesterday.
“Buddhist teachings are insistent that hanging on to any images of self—’Alzheimer’s patient,’ intellectual, blogger or teacher—leads to suffering. The self is an ever-shifting shadow that eludes any kind of definition. In the Christian tradition, too, we remind ourselves that whoever would save his life will lose it. Let go! Let go!” (Watching the Lights Go Out).
With glacial slowness, the still hidden sun unrolls a ribbon of light around the horizon, layered between the top of the hills and the gray cloud cover. It passes behind the mountain, pushing that reluctant silhouette out onto the stage; it spreads across the end of the valley and on around above the scraggly line of sentinel trees opposite my armchair in the corner window.
“Think of the mature among us. They speak less about striving, controlling and trying so hard, and more about allowing, being carried, graced as an agent of intentions much larger and wondrous…I’m left with a question. I’m asking myself, and now you, what helps us die, to let go of clinging, allowing the giving of our selves to the Water that receives us gaily and flows joyfully under us, granting us pleasure in being carried? What helps us do that?” (Mahan Siler/Anam Cara, A Spiral Upward)
I’m getting a little impatient with this sunrise. What if someone is desperately waiting for me to read an email? Has anyone liked my new FaceBook profile picture since I last checked? When is the sky going to turn pink? Am I supposed to just sit here and meditate while it takes its sweet time? “Yes,” comes the answer. “Stop trying to control it. You can’t, anyway.”
“I gave myself up to the day. Even when the punch bowl, a recent find from the Salvation Army, was extracted from its box unwashed and filled with the homemade wine. When a cup was offered, I graciously accepted, trusting the alcohol would offset, well, everything” (Carol Prentice in the Juneau Empire Online News).
The ribbon begins to glow yellow, expanding upward swallowing the gray clouds. I can almost hear it laughing as it joyfully banishes what was and becomes what is.
“[When we finished putting the IKEA cabinets together,] I asked [my son] whether he had noticed any impairment in my cognitive capacities, anything other than my reports of what I was experiencing…Kai and I talked about it later, and he asked if such impairment is frustrating for me. I would have thought so, too, but, in fact, it hardly bothers me at all. I’m cognitively impaired, I understand I’ll be increasingly limited and, importantly for me, that I am not to blame, so it’s been easy to let it go. I remain surprised by such equanimity, which had previously not been my forte, to put it mildly. I’m very grateful” (Watching the Lights Go Out, 11/25/13).
Gradually, before my eyes, the underbelly of the clouds turn rose and orange and gold and split apart to blue sky. The puffs of fog that rolled onto the valley floor when I was looking at the sky turn luminescent pink. I’m intoxicated with the beauty of it.
I do my morning sun salutations facing the joyful sky, then go downstairs and document the beauty with my camera before it and I move quickly, then, into the business of the day. I get almost to the coffee shop when I realize I have forgotten my book. I need it for post yoga lunch in Olympia. Cursing my absent mindedness, I turn around and head back up the hill. As I approach the curve in the driveway before the house comes into view, I press suddenly on the brakes and come to a wide-eyed standstill. I thought the story of this dawn was written, but between the trunks of the fir thicket, beyond the carport topped by my writing loft, is nothing. Nothing but white. The sky that had held the exultation of yellow light and pink glow before fading to ordinary time blue and white was utterly disappeared in fog. The story is never finished.