Saturday, January 8, 2011

How about a Wisconsin sunrise in January?

'Sup, ruby-throated sparrows?

I am greatly enjoying my 6-week break from first real vacation in 3 years.  My previous 2 summer and winter breaks were consumed by research projects and leadership responsibilities, so I can't emphasize enough how much I appreciate the luxury of being able to read a larger variety of books, to develop my talents, explore some new hobbies, and have some extended periods of time to myself.  What joy there is in long-awaited rest!

This morning I woke up naturally around 6am and, upon seeing the crystal-clear sky, decided it was a fine morning to observe the dawn.

07:32 CST

I live 3 blocks west of a relatively large lake, so watching the night horizon birth the day over the water is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite things to do, either by getting up early or staying up all night.  I like traveling with nothing but my house keys, I like solitude, I like how in summer the dew glows orange on the grass, and in winter the ice glitters and twinkles crimson on fences and window panes.  First light is a most excellent time to sit quietly and consider whether or not your daily actions are steering your life in the desired direction.  It's also an excellent time to simply enjoy everything as it is--fresh and clean and unspoiled--when the day is suspended in hope and potential because nothing has gone wrong yet.  The hours between 3am and 6am are especially gentle and tender, when you can play your music on the softest level and still hear it, when you can hear pin drops and whispers and murmurs that you otherwise wouldn't. 

The walk to my local lake is a little pleasure in itself.  First, one must take a tour through a humble yet tree-lined neighborhood, then pass an ice cream shop, a gas station, and a factory, then cross a set of very active waterfront train tracks, and then decide on the best viewing spot: To the left is an abandoned resort and a quaint marina (best for summer sunrise viewing), and to the center and right are several breakwaters and hidden fishing spots (best for winter sunrise viewing).  The breakwater that I favor features a rocky trail and curves approximately 100 yards out into the lake.  It's made of concrete scraps, probably from torn-up roads, is filled with dirt, and is inhabited by numerous trees and shrubs.

This morning was the first time I've ever taken my camera to a sunrise.  I normally prefer to not have a machine swinging around my neck when I'm trying to enjoy nature, and I also dislike having to futz with the exposure and focus settings constantly, and of course the batteries always die right in the middle of that one-in-a-lifetime shot.  Alas, I don't have a camera or a flash card in my head, so if I want to share what I've seen, I don't really have a choice. 

And perhaps I will take pictures this summer for comparison.

But what a beautiful morning it was today.  True, a fierce and bitter wind was sweeping the landscape and absolute temps were near zero, but the sky was so clear and the snow and ice were fields of diamonds.

I had a hard time capturing it on camera, but in person one can clearly the western portion of the Niagara Escarpment, which is awesome if you like geology as much as I do.  Slightly further south there is also a large wind farm.  Certain scientists say that painting the turbines purple would reduce bird and bat fatalities, but for now they are white.

Nearly everyone around here curses winter with everything they've got (even if they've lived here their entire lives), but I happen to like the serene and desolate beauty of these northern latitudes.  Although, a lot of truly disturbed murderers come from Wisconsin, so some have argued that this bleak, barren quality is what drives people to madness. 

I was bundled up and toasty in leather everything, so I wasn't cold, but I knew it was time to go home when my scarf had gotten so crusty with frozen snot that it was even grossing me out.  And thus began the regrettable return to town, to the harsh rule of filth and fumes and deafening traffic.