Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Color of Morning

I know a good number of my readers are shooters. But how many of you are hunters as well? How many have gotten up way too early because you wanted to? Awoken while the sky was black infinitude, only a small sliver of moonlight to guide you as you leave your house. As you roamed the land seeking, moonbeams a soft caress, sculpting your form as you climb into your blind, as if climbing closer to the sky you can hold heaven even closer.

Have you ever watched the color of the dawn? Really watched it as it turns from black to pink to orange to the brilliant white of the world. When the dawn lightens behind the stark shapes of your life, and like a rose unfolding, like a lovers first kiss, there's a quivering beginning of hope.

Most people don't. Most people hit the snooze button. Weekends I do that as well, snuggled face down, legs splayed, arms out, laid out on a king sized pillowtop alter to the god of sleep. But I know, that eventually I will have to get up and go. But today? It's Saturday. Today I don't want to. I'm not really exhausted but neither am I bound by some duty to leap out of bed, I'm simply hung up, trapped under a log in a current of time and environment, that has no direction, beneath a sullen night sky that will continue to wane towards yet another evening, toying with me, until maybe I'm shot out into the current that I was pulled into sleep from, and in the meantime it doesn't matter. For there's no one waiting for me to get up.
Except him. So with soft warm breathe and the nudge of whiskers he finds me, underneath the warm Pendleton blanket, like a caretaker, rousting out a soul found napping in a pew long after services are over, nudging me towards the door with the urgency born of prisoned spring and small doggie bladder.

It's early. TOO early. The sky is the darkness of stone formed deep within the earth, that only when split open, reveals its wondrous colour. For whatever reason, it beckons. So this morning, rather than crawl back into bed when Barkley was done with the unexpected revelry of cold snout, I grabbed my gun and stepped out into the world to watch it unfold.

Settled up with my back against a tree, I watched as the color cracked open the earth, just a hint of a smile as it shy stepped to take a bow.

What struck me were the colors. How do you describe such color? A red of a royal blue-red, that in centuries past would have been forbidden to be worn by the masses, on threat of death. Oranges and yellows, dripping like forgotten fruit into the horizon, their taste and texture, fragrant and lush against the plate of the earth. Pink and white, the colour of salt water snails found in the submerged sands of paradise, washed clean of their prison. Then finally blue, just a hint of blue, paler even than the bluest sky I remember from my last time aloft, just a hint of blue, fading, for into the sky comes the weather, thick clouds pulled up by the still slumbering earth to cover it and keep it warm.


Soon, too soon, before the sun could even warm the earth, warm me, blue grey gave way to grey, like the whole of Lee's army taking over the battlefield between night and dawn, leaving remnants, blood red on the ground, quickly leeching into the earth, til soon, nothing is left but a grey cloudy darkness again. And so I sit, under sunless, moonless cover, Barkley gone back to sleep beside me, the birds not yet awake, his interest only in being next to me. So dark. So quiet. I am left to trace in the early morning with my eyes closed, all those variated colors that I held for an instant, all the colors that I cataloged in memory, alone in the darkness, the lost hues and shades, sitting by a slumbering dog with hair the color of a starless night, alone, the world turning surely if slowly to gray.

But if I keep my eyes closed, closed real tight, I can still see the sun, bursting across the back of my eyelids, in the frames of memory of other warm mornings. Color splashing across blackness, set loose in a sudden spray, a thought of someone in the back of my mind, who's light feels warm and ticklish, like electricity before the blackout. Some long gone from this life, though they follow me on every hunt. With the light, there are thoughts of those hunts, those glorious days, a sudden flash of light in this dark world. So I keep my eyes closed as long as I can, to hold the picture in. Hold that memory close. I've got the first light of thought in my soul, stored in a photograph engraved on my eyes, and it will keep me until the sight of another dwindled dawn brings you to me.

33 comments:

  1. I look forward to hunting season every year and have enjoyed many sunrises. Thanks for painting those wonderful pictures in my mind. I look forward to the next hunting season.

    I get to see the sunrise on my way to work this time of year but it is not the same as during the hunt. I too hit the snooze on the weekends to catch a few extra Zzzz's that I miss during the week.

    Thanks again for the wonderful post and nice pics.

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  2. Great writing, as usual.
    I haven't been hunting since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, but I get up before dawn every morning so I can be at work at 6am. My workplace is on the water in Long beach harbor, and seeing the sun come up over the mountains in Orange County, and then light up the water with that early morning coppery glow is invigorating.

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  3. Yep, waiting early in the morning for the first light and being able to spot the first buck walking across the field as the sun comes up is something special... Thanks for the great writing!

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  4. Wow.

    You have a gift for expressing the moment that is beyond compare. To me, nothing can describe sitting out in the sendero in the early morning darkness waiting for the dawn. In the quiet darkness, you can hear sounds for miles. The crickets, that lone dog barking, the pump house a mile away. Everything seems sharper. To sit out there and watch the world wake up is an amazing experience. You are able to put that in words that I cannot.

    Thanks.

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  5. Growing up, fishing was my thing, I wasn't raised in a "hunting household" although my father did hunt in his youth, it was not passed on to me. I do love watching a sunrise though.

    It could be spectacular on the range, but I have seen them a few hundred miles out to see where the air is untainted and clear and spectacular is a gross understatement.

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  6. Every morning at five, the ducks on our pond, the birds in our trees, and the frogs in the marsh remind me that it is time.
    On a stand near Lake Tahoe one year a noise behind me [0 dark thirty] thought to be another hunter. Apon first light revealed some 'large' paw prints and 'large' scat.
    Obviously Brer Bear wasen't looking for breakfast at the time.

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  7. Working on the farm growing up and being an avid pheasant hunter I have seen many sunrises. After reading this beautiful post I expect I will view future sunrises through different eyes.

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  8. I know those sunrises well! But, oh, what I would give to be able to walk out the back door with my gun and just hunt. Not that there isn't plenty of game where I live - just too many people. And rules.

    Nice post!

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  9. Lindbergh wrote a great passage in "The Spirit of St. Louis" about flying through the night and the coming of dawn. I need to check that book out and re-read it.

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  10. I'm a musician, so I usually only see sunrise at the tail end of my day through smoke-covered eyes.

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  11. For a couple of months of each year I get to see the sunrise as I drive to work. And me very sleepy today after a 3am black labrador wake up call from my parents dogs this morning, hope there aren't many more of those in the week till mum and dad are back from Australia!
    But the last special dawn as stunning as you describe was seen from the deck of an ocean racing yacht. Beauty glimsted over a mug of hot tea around 4:30am as we headed quietly to the race start out at sea, seeming a world away from the pre-dawn dark when we slipped our mooring an hour before and certainly a world away from the frantic action as 70 or so of the biggest, fastest ocean racers in the world all jostled to be in the same spot on the line where wind and tide were best when the start gun went at the still early time of 6am.
    Beautiful pictures and wonderful writing as always.
    David (Still sleepy after

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  12. I've always wanted to learn to hunt but never had anyone to teach me, I'm sure my grandfather would have but he died before I was born.

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  13. Watching a sunrise or sunset is definitely one of the perks of being a hunter on stand, I love 'em. You did a great job describing the feeling of watching the day 'come alive'.

    Know what gives me the willy's though? Walking in darkness, and getting a face fulla wet cobwebs, walking along the trail. Dang, that freaks me out, lol.

    I have a son in Special Education, and have to put him on the bus really early in the morning. One of the best parts is I'm out there before dawn, and I get to enjoy the day before things begin to happen. Its a peaceful time - I like it a lot.

    Thanks for a well written post.

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  14. Beautiful images and memories of morning outings on a hunt. Yet, as I thought of those sunrises and sitting bundled in a snowbank waiting for an elk or mulie to make an appearance, it suddently occurred to me: the significant majority of deer and elk which I have taken during my years were taken either between 10 and 2 or in the twilight of sunset. Maybe someone has perpetrated a hoax on us? The hunting is just as good at dusk as it is at dawn, the weather is warmer and you can see to get to your spot.

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  15. As a kid I used to go hunting or fishing every chance I got and frequently when fishing had my breakfast next to the stream with fresh caught trout. It was the only way to get away from home and chores.... Dad would always take Hunting or Fishing as an excuse to be out and about.

    As I have grown up and my job requires more and more of my time...hunting and fishing have fallen by the wayside. Maybe I need to start going again.

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  16. Brigid, you make my attempt at not killing myself as I scale my climber 30ft up in pitch black sound incredibly romantic...;-)

    All kidding aside, my second favorite part is rock a bye baby... literally. Come 2 or 3 in the afternoon, if the wind is blowing that rocking motion puts me right to sleep.

    I'm sure there's no need to spell out my FAVORITE part.

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  17. Another beautiful, peace-inducing post. I love the sunrise, although the time of sunrise fluctuates so wildly here, based on the season. Sunrise is 3 a.m. in mid-summer, and 10:30 a.m. in mid-winter. I therefore have plenty of time to see them, for half of the year.

    Having said that, it's no substitute for watching the sun come up from a blind in the woods, waiting for enough light to see your watch, and the first appearance of the critters of the field. I've had otters swim past my feet, turkeys come up & check me out, and been barked at by fox kits, while awaiting the opening hour of deer season.

    Your writing brings all of that back, fresh and new. Thank you.

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  18. That's why I have a bow and quiver by the back door, field points or a mix with some broadheads depending on season.

    Some days my border wakes me up but then wants back inside to laze around in the AC or heat, also season dependent, and I grab my archery kit and go explore the forest out back in search of something tasty or sometimes just to be out and about and avoid work for a bit longer that morning. Nice thing about working from home.

    If Camilla Barker Jowls feels like going with into the trees I don't bother with a bow because she chases everything. Borders make great dogs if properly raised but they sure aren't hunting dogs. She always spots the game first and the chase is on for her and no hunting for me those days. She doesn't share rabbits caught either. Bit of a selfish bitch in very literal usage of those two words when it comes to bunnies. :-)

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  19. I don't hunt. My brothers do but I never really warmed to it. I see the sun come up every morning though. I leave for work before dawn, and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday I get up and have my coffee on the porch so I can see the sunrise over the mountains.

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  20. Black on black pierced by Orion's crytalline stars and brilliant Aldeberon, the red eye of the Bull. That's what we see at our awakening.

    Its early October and the acrid, alkaline dust, its fragance stirred into the pre-dawn dew, barely enough moisture in the air to dampen the night air to greet us. It seems a sacrilege to shatter the magic and light the gas lantern and break the spell.

    Then the coffee boiled in a blackened pot, steams away sleep. Blaze orange over camo clothes, it seems ludicrous, but we do it anyway. Its the law. Binoculars, water, a stash of granola bars stuffed in pockets lined with memories of dove and duck and maybe a spring turkey, we prepare.

    There in that India Ink black we stretch our senses. How far is far on this rolling dry sandy sea where pronghorn run for the sheer joy born in swift limbs huge hearts and lungs.

    Long guns loaded, chambers empty, butts nestled on the truck floor we ride east into the first muddy and sullen red slit that defines the horizon.

    Once the sun breaks the Kansas line, once color defines winter wheat from fallow ground, there the realization is hammered into our souls of just how small we are under the rising blue dome and the long, long sight to only a farther distant line.

    Is it treeline or a fence or a break where water once cut an arroyo?

    That question is mute when the first flash of a white butt in the midst of green winter wheat sends a semaphore signal.

    The hunt is on. Prairie ghosts, speed goats, pronghorn in the shimmering air maybe a mile away paw and feed, their long sight eyes ever watching.

    Yes'sum, I know the sunrise.

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  21. Brigid,
    This is very good, imagery evokes in me memories of early mornings in the deer or duck blinds or the cornfields where the pheasant and chukar hide:)
    Beautiful prose, as always:)
    PMZ

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  22. Camilla Barker Jowls and I went on an adventure related to shooting and food today. Wish I could write about such things as well as you did but I don't. I just write. Mom emailed me a bit ago that I sound like a hillbilly at times for being highly educated. Usually forget to take the good camera too. (Prolly the only person in the recent past that went on an African hunt from Texas and forgot his camera and took pics with his marginal cell phone camera same as today...) I didn't know mom read my blog. Oh well. I never say anything bad about her so no harm.

    You're a gem whether or not some stuffed shirt in accounting at a magazine says you are. You probably never turned your stories in on time because you were perfecting them rather than cos you did 'em at the last minute like me in school days.

    Thanks for the happy reading. You're an inspiration and yardstick as to getting better at writing for me (and to remember to take the "good" camera).

    May all your days be good, your rounds in the ten ring, and all your hunts successful,
    Tom

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  23. My favorite time is the first glimmer of color sighting the eastern skies..when it becomes a lense of light and starts to chase the stars from the inky blue-black. That is framed on my wall and its the first thing i see in the AM when the alarm pries me out of the Pendleton with its raucous blat. At 0400....ugh.

    In happier times, the light coming in through the windows innocent of blinds or curtains was my alarm.

    On the weekend, unless work calls or its hunting or fishing season...I'm piling ZZZZZs until the un earthly hour of oooh say 7:00 AM...when my brain roars to life and insists that the REST of me do the same.

    Hot showers. A good thing.

    When I ran mills on the overnight shifts... I used to climb up onto the structure of the lumber sorter's highest catwalks...where I could see the sun creep over the Cascades and bleed deep coppery light over the sloughs and marsh. Cleansing and invigourating even after a long night.

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  24. Oh my, that was a beautiful post. I remember seeing a dawn, with a faithful dog at my side. It was for another reason, but there was comfort in seeing dawn come again, and comfort in the warm presence of the Yellow Lab at my side. Sometimes it seems that all the goodness in the world can be found in seeing the sun rise again while a faithful companion slumbers at your side.

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  25. While I don't know too much about hunting, I do know that a very, very good way to experience sunrise is to use that time to DI the aircraft and pull it out to the line. For that I will get up before daybreak on a weekend.

    Thank you for a beautiful post, and I do hope magazine editors wise up.

    Jim

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  26. Beautiful as usual,

    The image of Barkley sleeping beside you, brought the thought of Roxie, my little German Shorthair.
    She's bit nervous, and might lay by me for a few moments while afeild (more likely is she was cold), but there's always something that needs to be investigated. She does like to cuddle when we're in the house though.

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  27. Us Hellbillies still think you deserve a print column too!

    You should come down to Tiger Valley and write about it for SWAT or SOF next time you hit Tejas!

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  28. Those transition times are my favorite times of the day. (Though sunset even a bit more than sunrise.)

    Barkley is adorable.

    John

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  29. Yes Brigid, you're right to consider yourself fortunate. That an editor took the time to write you personally and suggest helpful hints is not common. He must've seen something there. Most submissions get a standard rejection letter.

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  30. That photograph reminds me of a Saturday morning's journey heading eastbound over the Pennine hills on the M62, in Northern England. As I crested the hill and descended into Airedale there was a lovely fiery red sunrise reflecting onto high clouds; I'd have loved to have captured that, but I was cruising at 70 mph at the time, with nowhere to stop and fish out the camera and the show lasted but a minute or two.

    I don't remember the hunting that followed that day nearly so well as that sunrise (I'm one of the very few people who routinely follows foxhounds on a bike), but that view will stay with me forever.

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  31. That makes me wish I spent more days getting up early for myself. Somehow the sunrise loses a bit of magic when you're dragging a suitcase through lot E at O'Hare. I guess for me, what I'm doing is more important that just being awake. I like sunrises over dashboards. I know I'm headed somewhere I want to go and I've got a jump start on everyone else who just rolled out of bed when the light came through the curtains.

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  32. Beautiful prose, as usual. Brings me back to my days working night shift in central Maine; one of my favorite things about the overnight was climbing to the top floor of the hospital, sneaking into the disused conference room, shutting all the lights, and watching the sun creep over the horizon.

    Something magical about that time of day. So still. So serene. So beautiful.

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