Upon finishing my Mornings Photography Project this past Friday, (I use capital letters, as if it has earned its title,) I breathed a sigh of relief, nodded to myself internally, “Well done, Emily. You did not entirely screw that up.” And then immediately felt bereft.
In the past 30 days I have: taken sunrise hikes on the Mesa, followed the steam from my mug of tea as it curled upward in spirals that reminded me of my sister’s hair, made eye contact with a crow, forbade my children to take a bite of their breakfast before I photographed it, leapt over furniture to get to my camera as a hot air balloon drifted over my house, and generally looked at things in a new light. A long, generous light. The light that had just pulled itself over the horizon with great effort and whispered in jewel tones on the earth.
I’m going to miss those mornings.
Of course, there are mornings waiting for me on the other side of this project. Mornings I am just as free to photograph as those I just waded through. But there was something about having set that task for myself that made it all official; breakfast, tea, sunrise. Everything was simultaneously brand new and ceremonially significant. It felt as though I was permitted to creep from the hallways of normality into antechambers of sanctity. Ok, antechambers of sanctity is a bit much. But there is definitely something about the world at sunrise that has been kept secret from me for the better part of 31 years.
On the morning I walked along the Mesa to capture the picture of The Flatirons at sunrise, I was a little early. So I snapped a few pictures of blades of grass and the hillside. And then a sense of wonder so intense it must have burst open inside my chest, washed through me and I thought I might vomit. Vomiting was the most poetic movement that occurred to me at the moment. The earth was shades of gray and pale blue in the crisp, delicious chill of morning. The day was not yet alive. I held my breath, feeling like I was invading a private moment, a birth.
The sun rose, dripping red and orange and pink onto the landscape and those colors ran like honey down the chin of the world and drove the pallid stillness from moments ago into the retreating night. The mountains ignited and the hills took a breath, even the grass seemed to flutter with a new pulse.
It was me that had been delivered. I passed into new thought, new expression, new purpose and understanding…
And then an elderly Yellow Lab trotted up and perched herself on the toe of my shoe. Right in the middle of my spiritual awakening.
Her owner trotted up behind her a minute or so later. They were lost. Putting my new found enlightenment to good to use, I pointed them in the right direction.
And then I scurried home, eager to see the divinity I had just encountered on the hill through my viewfinder, displayed in all its glory in full screen.
Forgive me, it was lack luster. By the time I got home, my family was awake and in full, morning-insanity mode. (That is what mornings have meant to me: harried people; loud, inarticulate, adolescent arguments; thrown elbows; thin skin…) I pulled the images from the camera and ticked through, erasing several hundred of the more blurry ones. I searched but I couldn’t find it. I couldn’t find that moment I’d had on the hill wherein my heart beat in time with a bigger plan; that cosmic shift of thought and being.
None of it was anything that could be captured, held between fingertips or on a memory card. As much as I wanted to share the moment I’d had, it belonged to only me.
In my own heart, that sunrise is metallic. Bronze. Ruby. Gold. Banishing a dreadful chill inside when I allow that sun to crest the horizon of my discontent. When I choose to be awake.
On that morning and 29 others, I chose to be awake.