I’m a sucker for a great sunrise, or sunset. I not only set my alarm to wake up good and early every day, I go out of my way to get up before the sun even when I am traveling and on vacation. Wherever I am, I enjoy seeing how the movements of the sun will take shape
and if I have the chance, I photograph the landscape.

I don’t really think about the moon rising, or setting.  But I do think there is something calming about a big full moon, one that sits on the shoulders of the land and lights up the sky.  It’s mysterious.  It’s curious.  It’s healing.  It’s bold.  It’s one of those experiences that words can’t accurately capture.  But whether we look for the moon to rise and fall, the same way we look for the sun to rise and fall, or fail to ever notice either, the moon is spectacular!

Earlier this week I was up at zero-dark-thirty getting ready to bolus feed Zach.  As I walked toward the kitchen I noticed beautiful light coming from the woods which abut the back of Zach’s house.  “That can’t be the sunrise,” I thought, as I meandered to the kitchen to decide whether I would first make a cup of coffee, and then feed Zach, or the other way around.

Once in the kitchen with a full window view into the woods, I saw it.  The huge, perfectly rounded moon was perched just through the tree line.  It was massive and almost transparent looking.  I got my coffee and watched it fall fairly quickly, the same way the sun falls rapidly off the landscape of the ocean at sunset.  It was there.  It was beautiful.  And then it was gone.

For the first few months after retirement I enjoyed the luxury of not setting a wake up alarm.  I let myself sleep, for the first time in my life since I was a teenager, until I was rested.  If that was 8am, or 10am or if I didn’t feel like getting up at all, I just went with it.  The option of “not” getting up was far more seductive than I realized it would be.  It felt decadent, indulgent and completely foreign.  

Eventually, I set an intention, and a new daily alarm to wake me at my new “get up” time which is around 6am.  That may seem early, but for years I awoke at 4:55am so I had two hours for meditation, prayer and exercise, before the start of my day.  Compared to that, it still feels quiet luxurious.

There are lots of good reasons to get up before the rest of our households, and the rest of the world too.  And the “early bird getting the worm” is not actually one of them.  More so, there is an enchanted quiet early in the morning, a stillness that cannot last, but is so serene we wish it could.  

I am most creative in the early morning.  I think that is because my mind hasn’t yet woken up to the world at large until a few hours after I’ve gotten up.  And those hours are sacred to me:  Just the trees and wind and eventually sunlight.  And on this morning a few days ago, there was this magical moon.  It was a vision and an experience I’d have missed had I slept in until after it was light out.

The thing about getting up early is that it is a gift we can give ourselves over and over again.  The gift itself is a quiet, private and personal “presence” that embraces every cell of my being.  It’s a time that my mind and heart are wide open and I can hear and see things that aren’t available to me during the daylight.  It’s a reconnection of sorts, that ties me to myself, and to the human experience.

So no, we don’t think a lot about the moon rising and falling, but now that I have described just one morning where I got to see it sink into nothingness on the wooded horizon, I’ll think about it more.  The rhythms of the sun and moon are very comforting to me.  When I am in the deepest of grief storms, I know I can look to them to serve as repeated confirmation that I am still alive, and so is nature, and thus the world.  It doesn’t stop the pain, but it’s hard to argue with something as striking, peaceful and present as a huge, translucent moon when it’s just the two of you in the early morning darkness.  It’s almost like a secret whisper, inviting me to take part of that early morning quiet and settled-ness into the remainder of my day.

I don’t set an alarm on Sundays.  Everyone needs a day to operate without a schedule and live a little spontaneously. But on the remaining days I don’t take a chance that I will miss something as glorious as the “moon-set” I recently witnessed.

Not everyone is a “morning person” and respectfully if you have a cadence and sleep/wake routine that works for you by all means stick to it.  But if you’ve never been an early riser you may not know what you’re missing.  Failing to experience the full impact of nature, especially in the morning darkness, seems to me a little like looking at the ocean but never snorkeling or diving to discover the whole other world that lives below the surface.  You don’t know what you’re missing, until you do.

If you have any great early morning stories or photos capturing the sunrise or set, please share them in the comments!  And fear not even if you’ve never seen a sunrise there is always another chance to see it tomorrow.

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