Dawn Walk

Awake all night, as I tend to be between sets of evening and overnight shifts, I recently would see a preconceived drudgery transformed into a blessing.

Juvenile trees needed watering yet again. In a severe drought year, this menial toil for us becomes a matter of survival for certain young shrubbery on our acreage, trees and bushes in which I’ve invested money and the labors of planting and trimming, and and Elke has invested all manner of tender loving care, including most of the watering.

One bucket beckoned–not any bucket, mind you, but one in whose bottom I had drilled an eighth-inch hole for the purpose of steadily delivering five gallons of water to the root system of any needy tree or bush. In a hellish summer like this, record heat and parched earth dominant, even the native or near-native timber has to be hydrated until it has sunk the deepest of taproots. We help the trees through their youth this way, so they may stand magnificent and more self-sufficient well after we’re pushing daisies, a small contribution to the ideal of leaving the world a little better than we found it.

My task was to soak at least five crape myrtles. Two of them were tender striplings that had died back to the roots and regrew hesitantly, frail stems following last year’s subzero cold snap. Meager rain late the afternoon before–to be precise, eight-hundredths of an inch at a gauge twenty feet away–either had evaporated or collected in a shallow layer of soil destined for disappearance in the abusively torrid sunshine mere hours ahead. Indeed, moisture already was rising to the surrounding air, the evaporational sacrifice of a dew-fall well underway.

Tranquil and serene, the hour of darkness and faint light astride the dawn is my favorite time to be outdoors. I seldom get out in this, because of the need to work or sleep at that hour on two-thirds of shifts. Yet here it was, an opportunity for immersion in something always welcomes, but seldom appreciated to the extent to come.

Stepping into the quietest time of night, it was obvious immediately that even the paucity of rainfall was able to leave a most welcomed souvenir. A soothing, moist, earthy scent wafted in gentle pulses here and there in the faint breeze, as if invisible clouds of natural aroma therapy. The experience was best grasped by extended and slow nasal breathing, eyes closed to focus most deeply and intently on the sense of smell. A fantastic fragrance it was.

Eyes opened, a stroll began, the flow of mild and moist air mostly a function of my walking pace. The mellow breeze stroked every inch of exposed skin in a continual silken brush, comforting beyond a superficial sense of touch, satiating to the very core amidst the ever-soothing and perfume of the dew. Minutes passed, uncounted and immaterial.

Gazing above, the silver light of a half-lunar noontime diffused through altocumulus and cirrus clouds. Gazing below, ghostly shadows brushed the ground in feathered edges, including the one moving apace with me. Faint blue-gray light appeared in the east, barely discernible around moonlit cloud edges, yet brightening ever so gradually. That evanescent moment soon arrived when lunar light and dawn glow strike a perfect balance, each readily distinct yet no brighter than the other, symmetry and equanimity of visual beauty additively complementing the multisensory serenity of the scene.

During that period, a small gathering of altocumulus, cellular and honeycombed in shape, passed before the moon. Silver light diffracted into a circular ring of color along the thinner edges of the cloud cells, a corona migrating from gap to gap as the cloud mass translated past. Visual resplendence above then coalesced with the onset of an enchanting auditory elegance.

In the distance, a lone, male chuck will’s widow chattered forth, its extant melody echoing across the acres. Only one other of God’s creatures broke the silence of the dawn; and thank the Lord it was that one. Like me, the nightjar is a creature most at home in the foredawn interlude. He too cherishes more somber surroundings in a nocturnal setting unencumbered by the harsh glare, fast-paced superficiality and overbearing tumult of the diurnal interval through which we each prefer to slumber.

It had to end, I suppose. At some diffuse point, the dreamy reality faded, overtaken by the pragmatism of needful return to vegetative nurturing. How many steps or furlongs did I walk? What interval passed on the clock? I can’t say with accuracy, and it doesn’t matter.

A dawn walk, with senses wide open, experienced outside self as much as from within, transcended such trivialities as time and opened a more spiritual pathway aloft–a blessing indeed, one among countless available for those who surrender to the possibilities.


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