dawn on the river, June 6 2013
Crepuscular. When I was a child, that word suggested rather negative ideas; perhaps I associated it with corpuscles or the black crepe one drapes around a dead-room in Victorian melodrama. Its meaning has been transformed by the passage of years and many walks among shadows barely touched by light.
This morning, I awaken very early and decide that 5:30 is a perfectly fine hour to wander my little Eden. The grass is drenched, of course, and my sock-bound feed are constricted in cold. I should really remove them – the socks, that is, not the feet – clumsy though they can be sometimes. But I want to sit with my coffee and watch the morning unfold. I know this is an imperfect world, fraught with horror and chaos, riven with possibilities for evil and often interrupted by alarmist sirens. However, this fresh dawn, where I am right now, must surely be perfect. I would be false to myself if I were to ignore that.
Out on the Tusket River stillwater, which curves along the edge of my land, mist has cast its gauzy veil across the water. Cormorants, ever anxious for their catch-of-the-day and not bound by any clock, are poised in dense lines along the protruding rocks. Gulls skim the trees and current, more quietly than usual – perhaps out of respect for the general stillness of the hour. To the east of the river’s bend, a necklace of circles breaks the surface as fish, unaware of their audience, celebrate a return from spawning and their impending reunion with the sea. Some will not make it. The cormorants and gulls are good at what they do.
A great blue heron glides above me, too suddenly for my camera to catch. These birds rise later than the more common predators; they take flight toward the west, upriver – perhaps enjoying the air through their pinions and thinking of nothing much. What they lack in magnificent voices is more than offset by their elegance and adaptability. Herons, eagles and hummingbirds give my hours of photographic pleasure. I love all birds but these three, all different from each other, contribute the most material for my lens.
I think again of crepuscular as the sunlight explores with gentle fingers among my new-leaved trees. Its beams don’t yet touch the ground but they turn the mist to a warm drapery that blows and billows around the cormorants, the stones, and me. Dylan Thomas speaks of “the close and holy darkness” but for me, this half-shine is holy too. It reminds me that hope inevitably outlines the edges of trees and fences and buildings, and of us as well. We are the moving shades within the light. Behind us, it rays out and shifts as we move. We rise as the sun does, strengthened moment by moment, tentative at first – then brave and undeniable. My only concern is to illuminate without burning. Such light can be fierce if unguarded. I would rather be a candle than a flare.
And so the day hurries forward. In the maples and oaks, warblers raise their greetings. A veery begins his carol, hidden visually but not aurally. How can a mere physical body ever match such sound? It is astonishing, this cascade, a pitcher of melody poured over my head – the small singer’s blessing. No one can hear a veery or wood thrush and consider the day a loss.
Now the light has descended. It shatters and bends though dewdrops and webs and the translucence of opening flowers. I search for a spider’s midnight efforts, but there are no web artists alive yet. These are young creatures, learning the ways of their kind, looping their experimental strands from spruce boughs. The parents – such skilled weavers of autumn magic – have vanished forever. We learn, and create, and excel. Then all that awareness is consigned to the earth. Or is it?
The morning is fully bright now. A loon runs across the mirrored surface, takes off, calls back to me. The fish have stopped their dance and continued their journey home. Traffic begins to move on my country road, and dust replaces ground fog. The world of humanity intrudes; the world of water, silence and crepuscular light withdraws. Tonight it will return for another quick reminder that it still exists. I am content with that.