Sunday, July 10, 2011

Morning Light

I woke early yesterday morning - or at least earlier than I intended, having stayed up a bit the night before. My body said that it wanted more sleep but I could see that my mind wasn't permitting it. I got up reluctantly. I could see that the sky was clear and the sun was pushing its way through the houses and trees that rim the sky of my urban environment. It occurred to me that I could take a walk. I have never been an early morning walker but I have always thought that it would be a lovely time to be out, with the day still new and fresh and cool.

Almost immediately, my mind was confronted with all of the reasons why I should not do this. After all, getting up early was a good opportunity to get more work done and I certainly had enough of that to do. Even more ridiculously, thoughts occurred that I should not disrupt my morning routine that includes drinking water and meditating. Besides, I was hungry. And if I took the time for this walk, would I be able to get everything done so as to be ready for an appointment that was still hours away?

I filled a water bottle from the kitchen tap, packed a bit of dried fruit and put both into a roomy canvas shoulder bag. I stuffed in an old towel as well. A long-sleeved cotton shirt over my t-shirt protected against the still cool air. And I grabbed my camera. The park was only a few blocks away and the sun was rising. I must go if I want to catch the morning light.

Artists often talk of the morning light. Ancient traditions have long directed people to pray facing east and many churches have sunrise services on special occasions. What is this morning light? I wondered. What have I been missing while making excuses for why I couldn't possibly go out walking in the early morning?

Just the night before, I had signed the "Monk's Manifesto", declaring (online) that "I am a monk, by the grace of God." This may seem a little surprising if you, like me, think of monks as men in robes, living solitary lives away from the rest of society. But I found a group online (by chance?) that tells of being a "monk in the world" who "does not live apart but immersed in the everyday with a single-hearted and undivided presence, always striving for greater wholeness and integrity". It did not hurt that this monastery without walls also is a wellspring uniting spirituality and expressive arts, even offering a class on "photography as contemplative practice". I had felt my spirit connect. Perhaps that is what gave me the extra push to move past my excuses and seek the Morning Light.

Come, walk with me. (The few photos the follow were taken as I went out into the morning light. Although I cropped and straightened a couple of them, I did not alter the lighting or color when editing, as I wanted to capture for you, as much as possible, what I actually saw...)

I stop by my neighbor's garden,
taking a picture of a rose
with its petals unfolding
in the early morning light...

In the lot next door
where the old gardening shed
hides in the shadows,
I see the sun breaking forth
upon random leaves and branches,
setting them ablaze
with its brilliant light...

As I approach the overpass,
with the smell and noise of
cars and trucks whizzing by,
I spot one weed among
the many that grow untamed,
a weed that in the sun
becomes a flower...

I cross the seldom-used alley
separating the convenience store
from the towering old church.
Even the bricks of this old path
seem aglow and living
in the light of new day...

I am at the park.
I roll out my old towel
upon the dewy grass.
I sit yoga-style, facing east.
Even with my eyes closed,
the light is too brilliant.
My extra cotton shirt
becomes my eye shade.

I am there, in the park, morning meditation upon me as usual, but not usual. The brilliant light. The air warming. Birds around me chirping and cheeping. Sudden loud barks of a dog being walked startle me for a moment until I settle back in, trusting that all is well... "Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen. Alleluia." I open my eyes and stretch. I drink my water and eat my dried fruit, looking and listening to all around me.

I walk to the far end of the park.
The sun is higher in the sky now.
There is beauty,
more beauty,
as the morning light
brings creation into focus.

I take another picture.
I must show you
what I've seen.
I cannot keep something
like this to myself.
The light, the beauty
is for all of us...

I put my camera away and walk home. As I approach my house the words come to me:

My soul is awash with God.

The Morning Light has washed me, cleansed me, refreshed me. I am ready once again to be "immersed in the every day", my heart set apart yet still fully in the world.

* * * *

(If you are curious about the "Monk Manifesto" I signed, you may read it by clicking on the link below. Since I am a newcomer there, I am not recommending that you spend money at this site - that is your decision - but the free gift that came with newsletter membership was very nice.)