Some mornings, just before sunrise, the sky near the horizon turns orange-red and the clouds look purple in the distance. I don’t know enough about the weather to predict when a sunrise will be spectacular and when it will be ho-hum, but either way it is worth it to wake before dawn and head to the shore of a lake or some other landscape you love where you can see the sky just before, during, and after sunrise. Even when the skies are perfectly clear, the soft colors of dawn are fleetingly mesmerizing.
There is a stillness in the early morning on calm weather days that brings deep peace. Often, there is no one else around and I feel a sense of connection to all that surrounds me, a deep oneness with nature.
Other kinds of weather bring different dawns, each with it’s own unique enchantment. Stormy days and cloudy skies bring different kinds of light. When the seasons change and the water is warmer than the cool morning air, fog rises from streams and lakes to create a magical soft landscape. On Lake Superior, the gales of November bring crashing waves and wind.
The light changes rapidly before and after sunrise. A few minutes can make a huge difference. Getting up early enough to be at the site where I want to make photographs at least a half hour before sunrise gives me the best opportunity to play with the different kinds of light that precede and follow the sunrise.
But like many of us, so often in life, I take the path of least resistance, pushing the snooze button instead of making the effort to rise early and show up. When I am snuggled in my warm bed, I make all kinds of excuses to not get up early and seek out the sunrise.
“I have learned one thing. As Woody [Allen] says, ‘Showing up is 80 percent of life.’ Sometimes it’s easier to hide home in bed. I’ve done both.” — Marshall Brickman
The photos in this post were made one morning during a photography workshop in Two Harbors, Minnesota, when we started each workshop day at 6:30 AM and sunrise was about 7:15 AM. It was easy to motivate myself to get up early for the workshop. I had paid for it and I didn’t want to miss out.
Yet when I am on my own, it’s much more difficult. Each time I make the effort and take in the beauty of the early morning I wonder, “Why don’t I do this more often?”
When it’s just me going out to make photographs on my own, it often doesn’t happen. Despite my best intentions, it’s hard to overcome the inertia of a comfortable, warm bed to get up early, so I sleep in, instead of rising before dawn to experience the sunrise.
“I wouldn’t say “art” as much as “virtue,” in the ancient Greek sense of “andreia” – manly action – or “arete,” excellence. In my experience, Resistance kicks in any time we try to move ourselves from a lower plane to a higher. In other words, when we try to align with the better parts of our nature. This move can be creative (art) or physical (athletics) or it can be ethical, moral or spiritual. Have you ever tried to meditate? I have and it kicks my butt every time. Spiritual stuff is hard! But so is making “cold calls” if you’re opening a new business. Somehow the principle is the same. We’re trying to overcome our natural laziness, selfishness, sloppiness, etc. So I wouldn’t say “art,” I’d say “virtue.”
― Steven Pressfield
After the photography workshop, where I was glad I got up early despite the short sleep and the cold morning air, I decided I would get out to shoot a sunrise at least once a week.
I haven’t been out for a sunrise since the workshop a month ago.
Showing Up is 80% of Life
Writing this post is a reminder to myself that I want to show up for more sunrises, to soak in their beauty, to feel the wonderful peace and oneness with nature, and to experience the storms and blustery winds that come also.
Yet even as I write this I recognize the need to be compassionate and gentle with myself. There is a balance needed. Sometimes what I really need is to sleep in later, sometimes I need to get up and see the sunrise. The trick is in listening well to my body and my inner chatter. Am I truly drawn to set my alarm early and get out to make photos or do I need more rest? Am I overcoming resistance or pushing myself too hard?
“A leaf does not resist the breeze. A goose does not resist the urge to fly down south. Is this not happiness? Is this not freedom? To access this incredible state, we need only one thing: Trust. Trust that, when you are not holding yourself together so tightly, you will not fall apart. Trust that it is more important to fulfill your authentic desires than listen to your fears. Trust that your intuition is leading you somewhere. Trust that the flow of life contains you, is bigger than you, and will take care of you – if you let it.”
― Vironika Tugaleva
These are questions we all need to ask ourselves if we are to live in the flow of life and follow our desires. Rising above inertia takes energy and trust. Let the things that you love create the energy you need to support you in showing up for whatever it is that draws you.
Writing this blog post today; remembering how it felt to be out at dawn with my camera; seeing the beauty of the light—these will help me to show up for the things that matter to me.
May you walk in beauty.