The WordPress Daily Prompt for August 29 asks, “How often do you get to (or have to) be awake for sunrise? Tell us about what happened the last time you were up so early (or late …).”
Some 16,700 sunrises have been available for me to view since I came on the scene—all of them free of charge. I have treated each one as mere scenery, equally majestic and thus, equally drab. Earlier this summer, I estimated that I have missed at least 16,000 of these sunrises. Every single sunrise was screensaver-glorious somewhere, and each one also heralded the start of “just another day” for someone, somewhere else.
(“I Like The Sunrise” from Francis A. and Edward K., Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington Orchestra)
But, ah, the winking parenthetical ellipsis at the end of the Daily Prompt’s question; that ellipsis is Dr. Evil’s pinkie aside his mouth—”the last time you were up so early (or late …).” In my head, I hear “late” pronounced in three syllables. (And, seriously, the question is quite imprecise in its meaning, as one Daily Prompter points out in “Preposition Precision.”)
In upstate New York, a tree-filled, short skyline part of the world, sunrise is a rumor for most of us on the ground or second floor. When I am awake at a little before 6:30 a.m., which is the official time of sunrise around here in late August, I do not see sunlight until around seven. By then, it is DAY. Unless you are a shepherd hanging out in the mountains—the Berkshires, Catskills, Adirondacks, Poconos—or on one of the few available upper floors, the angle of light keeps it dark a bit longer. I grab that extra 30 minutes/several hours of sleep, because my dad made a good enough living for his children to not be farmers.
(My father grew up on a small farm in Vermont and he never made the life of predawn chores sound idyllic. I am proud that I come from farmers and rural … life … everywhere. Just … everywhere. Not a city slicker among them. On both sides of my family, small-town and farm life extends into the [sunset] distance. The rurality of my heritage is a point of pride, even if I am not myself even a gardener.)
Because much of upstate New York is tree-filled, I hear rather than see the sunrise most mornings. The creatures of the night shut down their nightly production at around 11:00 p.m., and sometimes precisely at 11:00 p.m., which is creepy beyond measure, and then the morning birds start singing each other awake at around 5:00 a.m. I miss the birds chirping each other sunny in winter.
So I rarely start my day with the sun, as I am neither a pet owner nor employed. For most of my life, this has not been a point of pride, as some inner, rural, farmer version of myself considers me a lazy bum shirking on his many chores … again. Day after day after day. Being one’s own harshest critic means that one is neither critical of the things worth being harsh about nor correct very often. This is one of my many conflicts with myself, chronicled here regularly.
But the few dozen sunrises I have made it my point to see, when I have had occasion to stay up late, those have been spectacles, indeed. An early morning flight into Chicago, watching as dawn broke on the upper floors of the skyscrapers and then extended downward into the night-filled streets below. One New Year’s morning as daylight filled the streets of Manhattan, after a New Year’s Eve in midtown Manhattan, and all that that phrase carries with it.
For a year I worked for a rural newspaper in Sullivan County, New York, and sometimes would stay with friends not in rural Sullivan County, New York. I would drive west in the morning with the sunrise at my back; often mine was the only vehicle commuting into rurality and not away from it.
The sunrises that were not spectacles were not spectacles because of me and my need for the day to unfold as “just another” one.