Plugging in at Sunrise

Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet

Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet

I noticed that a lobby area at Wesleyan University has charging stations, where students can restore their iPads or phones to full buzz. And yesterday, our teenage guest needed our network login code, our specialized charger cord, our outlet.

I’ve been thinking about another, deeper way to charge. It’s 5AM, and my own smartphone tells me that sunrise is at 5:22. But the birds have been gearing up for dawn over this last hour. When I hear their predawn symphony its reminds me of the angels on the beach in the movie City of Angels–they are watching, waiting for the first burst of light, tuning in to a profound and mysterious message that’s not spelled out in the dialogue (warning: the bare posterior of Dennis Franz at the end of this clip is not quite as profound, but then again this part of the scene makes its own point about immersion in what matters).

It’s a personal anniversary for me—a year and a day since I started my book about what nature has to teach us. I’m not the first—there are big shoes to fill in this department, and come to think of it I’d be happy just to pick up the trail with my much smaller footprint. Take, for example, Diane Ackerman, who does her own “singing” about sunrise in  Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day. Here she appreciates impressionist Monet as a “sensate”—someone acutely tuned into the gifts of the world:

Monet simply proclaimed, and adored, what we all experience from moment to moment: the wash of sensations that greet us on waking, and which we try, at our cost, to dismiss as wasteful, self-indulgent, unproductive, or by some other term designed to separate us from our true self. The freedom of unbridling that self and losing it in nature is immeasurable. Alive moments can be anytime, anywhere. If I closely watch any natural wonder, really watch it, nonjudgmentally, in the present moment, noting its nuances, how it looks in changing light, or on different days, yet remains recognizably the same, then the world becomes dearer and less trying, and priorities rearrange themselves with an almost audible clicking. 


Can you hear it too—that whisper of a click? Its message to me is to hit “save” and get out into the birdsong.



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