Friday, November 7, 2008

Liquid Light

Ever since I was a child, I had always this sentimental fascination with sunrises. Part of the reason could be the fact that I spent so many years of my early life in the city where the beginning of the day and the flow of the hours is determined not by the rising or waning light of the sun but by the cold, impersonal and imperious cadence of clocks, watches and timepieces.

There the harsh yet constant glare of artificial lighting effectively masks the passing of the hours and one often only notices that the day has began by the sudden and jarring sound of the alarm clock and that it has ended by ringing of the school dismissal bell or the whirl and snap of the bundy clock at work.

It was only when I began living permanently in Lianga and acquired the habit of often waking up early that I learned to appreciate how beautiful sunrises can be and how uplifted one usually feels after being witness to a spectacularly colorful outbreak of the dawn. It is as if there is something within us that hungers for reassurance that the warm, life-giving light of the sun would return after the cold and darkness of the night and that the sight of the faint, ghostly glimmer of the new day in the eastern horizon is somehow is proof that the cycle of life continues with the hope of rebirth and renewal.

In Lianga, the transition from night to day is not the leisurely, prolonged and gradual process many people in the more temperate, northern countries are used to. The breaking of the dawn here, as it is in tropical countries, is quick and abrupt yet for those who wake up early and patiently wait for it to happen, the experience can be more than worth the inconvenience.

It all starts out with a faint glow of light far out in the eastern rim of the ocean. The glow becomes suddenly a pellucid ribbon through which subtle hints of gold and pastel colors seem to gleam through. In response, the black of the night in the east lightens to the bluest of blues and the sea begins to flicker with bits of reflected light as if a multitude of fireflies had chosen to miraculously take a morning swim.

The burning, bright yellow disc of the sun soon begins to peep above the horizon and the whole of the western sky begins to flood with pale, pastel colors bursting into glowing reds and oranges as shafts of light pierce still darkened clouds. In the west the night is still trying to make a last stand building ramparts of blue-black patches of the night sky above the still gloomy mountains but the march of the light is relentless as it is swift. The morning has finally come and even the darkness knows when it is beaten and finally and reluctantly retreats into oblivion.

It is all over in just a couple of minutes. Another quick glance and one sees that Apollo, the sun god, in his full glory, has already emerged from the ocean and has arrogantly thrown before him as proof of his coming a swath of undulating light that stretches like a golden carpet from the water to the edge of the land.

The chill of the night is suddenly replaced with a familiar, comforting warmth and suddenly one realizes with a start and a shudder that the magic show is over and one must now turn to face the struggles and challenges of the new day. Yet the time spent watching the day break is not all for naught. Call it a lesson and a reminder of the cyclical continuity of life and existence.

John Muir, the American naturalist, author and pioneer environmental conservation advocate could not have put it more succinctly. "The grand show is eternal," he wrote. "It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”

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