sunrises of the mountain and urban varieties

Imagine waking up with your nose poking out of a sleeping bag misted in morning dew. You’re briefly annoyed about the dew, but you remember that’s the price of sleeping out under the stars, and you’re glad it didn’t rain, at least. You pull the mummysack drawstring more snugly around your face and stare at the greyblue northwest sky, jagged between the evergreens. It may have been hot yesterday, but its September in Cascadia, and the mountain nights are chilly—mornings before sunrise even chillier, somehow. There is the possibility of coffee, or hot tea, once you crawl out of your sleeping bag, but for now you are comfortably ensconced, so you lay there. You can smell the campfire smoke in your hair and maybe someone you love is closeby, or maybe you are alone. You glory in either circumstance.

There is nothing like waking up in the mountains.

A sunspot appears on the pinedirtground next to you, and you watch it snake across the clearing, setting individual shoots of grass to glowing as it goes. Tendrils of steam-mist begin to curl off the damp earth. The patch of sunlight continues to grow, crawling into all the corners it abandoned for shadow last night. The pine smell gets headier in the sunlight, somehow. You are caught up in these individual moments and then you realize suddenly; Sunrise is happening. You get swept up in everything turning gold and the sky being born as an entirely new hue, and last night being over and tomorrow beginning which is happening now, incidentally, and suddenly the sunlight is racing up the evergreens at the foot of the clearing, branch by branch, climbing the trees like a cat, and then its leaping off the treetops and spilling down the mountainsides, and a whole new day is begun.

You’re left a little breathless by the whole thing.

As far as I’m concerned, mountain sunrises are as good as it gets. Urban sunrise has never really moved me that way.

Confession. I don’t tend to get up for sunrise in the city. I’m a lunch/dinner waitress (read: never have to be at work before ten and usually get off long after sunset). Its a worklife that’s enabled me to continue my college hours (read: I get most of my writing done in the middle of the night). I don’t see much beauty in sun hitting skyscrapers, and glowing pavement isn’t that interesting, unless it has shadows.

Its not like I live in some horrible concrete jungle. Confession: I actually live in the most beautiful city in the world. At least the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen. Seattle is surrounded by water, islands, and mountain peaks, and I live on the westernmost face of the city, on the westernmost edge of the last hill before the water, which means that our neighborhood looks over a wide stretch of the Puget Sound, backed by Blake Island, Vashon Island, Bainbridge Island, and the Kitsap Peninsula. These landmasses are covered in Evergreen trees, and behind those trees are the jagged and often-snow-capped teeth of the Olympic Mountains, and there’s usually a couple green and white Washington State ferries chugging across the water.

SO, if I bothered to get up and walk to the end of my street, I could take in a pretty damn picturesque sunrise, from the city. I could also walk up over the crest of the hill and watch the sunrise hitting the 14,000 foot peak of Mt. Rainier and the neighboring Cascade range (the setting of many versions of the aforementioned mountain sunrise).

Granted, there aren’t too many buildings in my views, so maybe those sunrise varieties wouldn’t qualify as urban. I’ll mull over that. The point of this blog is, I saw the sun rise in the city this morning, and my view didn’t have any mountains, or islands, or ferries. And it was still magic. (and you thought this blog didn’t have a point).

I laid awake last night listening to Ryan and the dog sleep-breathing, mentally poking thru garden and cupboards, plotting a dinner with friends. This morning, after Ryan left for the first day of school on his new scooter, I putzed around cleaning the kitchen, and then went outside to dump the compost jar. The sky was still darkish, and the grass was wet, because it is September in the northwest. A zillion fruit flies plumed up out of the compost cone when I pried the lid off, and I waved my hand around my face and thought, “goddamn it, I hate fruit flies. I hate it when I wait to take the compost out until its gotten nasty in the jar. I like compost when it is freshly chopped vegetable remnants, and gorgeous rich humus for my garden, and I am not big on it during the in-between stages.”

But then it occurred to me that compost reminds me of autumn, which is the time when the year rots into itself and creates the mulch for next year. Compost is a creative process, and autumn is a creative time, for me. I tapped the last of the sludge out of the jar, closed the lid of the compost cone, and turned around, feeling satisfied about autumn. Noticed the maple outside our backdoor was starting to turn colors, one of my favorite things about our little urban backyard. Noticed the sunlight creeping across the grass.

It hadn’t occurred to me yet that sunrise was happening, just that it was light enough to spot ripe vegetables in the garden. Went to poke around under the leaves. Picked a good size zucchini, 3 pattypan squash, a handful of tomatoes, and a fistful of basil. Noticed the sunlight creeping across the uneven bricks of our backyard patio, and glowing on the weeds growing out of the cracks between the uneven bricks. Started to walk up the steps, balancing all the garden vegetables, and noticed the gold light inching up the steps alongside me.

Suddenly, I realized I was watching the sun rise. There was no dramatic vista, no glowing peaks or shimmering saltwater. There was only our dear little backyard in the city, getting drenched in the gold light of Wednesday, on the first day of school.

I stood there, holding an armload of vegetables on our little cement back stoop, grinning like a fool, and watching the sunrise crest the sage plant and pick up speed as it climbed up the dark blue pot on the top step and into the forest of basil. It was at that moment that the sun itself crested the hill behind me, and the warmth joined with the light and set the sweetpea vine glowing alongside the backdoor.

I had an inane thought:

“I just watched the sunrise in the city, and it was beautiful.”

Inane because: I live in a beautiful city, in which I have a backyard, and a garden, a privilege many city-dwellers don’t have. It made me wonder: would it occur to me to watch sunrise if it illuminated ugly things? Would those things look less ugly in the warm light, or more?

And I went inside and arranged the garden bounty on the windowsill.




basil driftwood ikebana

basil driftwood ikebana

A few snapshots from the weekend, just because….

spinach and bok choy starts for the winter garden, rescued from a friday night rainstorm

spinach and bok choy starts for the winter garden, rescued from a friday night rainstorm

Auntie Em visits from Spokane for the weekend.

Auntie Em visits from Spokane for the weekend.

makes pancakes in a scooter helmet

makes pancakes in a scooter helmet


1 Comment

Filed under fathoming, Food, Garden, outside, waitressing, winter garden

One response to “sunrises of the mountain and urban varieties

  1. this is good what you are doing and thank you for posting it so i could find it –
    may i share with friends?

    sounds like you’re well –
    this post reminds me where you are,
    and that my fella will be starting his first day
    of student teaching at the high school
    in January – is that where
    Ryan is teaching,

    pancakes + scooter helmet
    to round it out!

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