This morning I took pictures at the bay, as I usually do, and I posted one of the shots on the neighborhood Facebook page, which I tend to do about once every two or three months, when one of the shots is worth sharing beyond my friends list of family and near-family. Also when it is good enough for it not to embarrass my photographer son whom everyone in town knows. In any case, it was a good shot with just enough clouds to make the sun interesting and turn the frame into something of a narrative.
Within six hours the post had over 250 likes, loves, wows, and other various reactions, had been shared twenty-something times, and had a few dozen comments of “Beautiful!” “Awesome!” “What a shot!” etcetera. So I’m curious about something.
I don’t set my alarm; I wake by about 5:30, find my way outside and on the way to the Y stand at the water at Stingray Point, or if it is foggy I’ll wander around right here near the house at the duck pond on the Rappahannock River, and I listen. I can hear buffleheads move by, dipping under and back out, taking off together if they notice me. Gulls, too, come close, hoping for food, and then I watch them move out toward one of the boats where they might pick up some fish from the watermen. In summer, osprey move out over the river toward Windmill Point, and in winter with them having migrated south, bald eagles aren’t unusual to find across the fields. Egrets, too, and a variety of smaller birds, like kingfishers and indigo buntings.
But that’s later, around seven or so. Earlier, I walk along the small strip of sand at the bay and watch the occasional container ship miles across the water toward Tangier heading south or north, from Baltimore to Norfolk. Closer to shore oyster boats have been at it for quite some time, and here, near the sand, the water is calm most of the time, almost like glass. I can hear the water’s tiny break, the ducks’ wings.
But out on the horizon, out toward the Eastern Shore across the Chesapeake, the sun remains beneath the land working its way up through the occasional clouds and morning fog, and streaks of orange and red and something like gold glazes the edges of the morning, letting light slip through as if blinds open slowly, until the top of the sun comes up almost out of the waves, and I stand alone, and it fills me so it is as if the sun and the bay and the endless sky has swallowed my existence.
Alone. For God’s sake, by myself.
Geez, come on!
I’m not on some wilderness safari; I’m in a village with houses everywhere, stores and boatyards, everywhere. People, real people, all over the place, yet I’m alone, everyone satisfied to catch the repeats on Facebook. I love the comments and it feels good to share nature with others who can’t get outside, but I can’t be the only one who can get outside! Where the hell is everyone?
And this isn’t just for coastal residents. The sun, you know, rises in a lot of places now. Have you ever watched the sun come up over the rooftops, trees muting the streams of morning as the air slowly clears? Have you ever, even once, seen the rays of light moving down Fifth Avenue? The sun rises all day long, constantly, it is always, I mean always, rising for someone, somewhere, constantly, perpetually. Yes, each of us usually only sees it once, most of us not at all—the sun is usually up before we open the curtain. But surely, here, on the edge of the day, in all these years, I might have stood next to someone other than my son and said, quietly, “Beautiful, isn’t it?” But not. Never. I’m not kidding. Not once.
I’d love to see dozens of pictures of the sunrise over the bay, the same sunrise from dozens of perspectives, all of us standing around, alive, afterwards heading over to the café for coffee, talking about how we need to do this more often, laughing about how this just might be the highlight of the day, but at least we started out okay. The rest of the day is in the control of so many others in our lives, but those few moments, early, when the sky is not yet blue, but almost, is ours if we choose to engage in life for a few moments. This is trite, yes, but apparently not trite enough or I wouldn’t be a solitary figure on the sand, wondering if I’m the only one who noticed.
Life is brief, a moment at best; that’s why I’m out there. It all passes so fast. Come watch the best parts with me. I’ll buy you some coffee. We’ll laugh about how fast it all passes.