For a while now I’ve been wanting to get up for the sunrise, ever since I saw a random social media post that talked about “Sunrise Sundays”. I liked it (social media-ly speaking, *heart*, but also, in the emotional sense).
Sunrises every Sunday. I felt inspired. I should do that. It would be amazing. Maybe it could change my life. Or something.
Sundays came and went and I did not get up. The idea of doing it was appealing, but the actuality of crawling sleepily out of my warm bed and leaving the house in the cold and the dark was not. F*** that.
Then today, a Monday, I woke early, well before dawn. I seriously considered falling back asleep. Which sounded good in theory, just like the sunrise thing, but instead of waves of pleasant drowsiness reclaiming me, I found myself wide awake, plagued with anxiety, stress and fears about my life. My thoughts went skipping recklessly down a rabbit hole of despair and self-loathing. F*** that.
I got up.
I got dressed.
I walked out the door onto empty lamplit streets, and made my solitary way to a nearby trailhead. Before the sun crested the ridge line above my sleeping home town, I was going to scale a peak, and watch the day awaken.
As I progressed toward my destination, a new sense of foreboding began to grow in me. I started thinking of the vagrants that sometimes camped out beneath the creek bridge, or by the freeway overpass, or near the trail where I was headed. I probably shouldn’t be alone. Shadows lurked in my mind, half-formed fears of being attacked. This is silly, the likelihood of anyone waiting to jump a pedestrian before 5am… I left a note for my family, they will know where I disappeared... Damn, I should really take a self-defense class…
I hesitated many times. Should I turn around?
Yet these thoughts didn’t feel like a gut warning to protect me from real danger; that kind of intuition I’ve experienced and know fairly well as something quite distinctive. Was the current fear clouding my awareness, though? Relax, so you can know the difference.
I tried to shake it off, but the fear followed me halfway up the mountain. Frequently I would stop, listen, and look intently at strange shapes looming ahead. (I preferred to keep my eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness rather than announce my location with a light. Still, I had my cell phone flashlight on and ready in my pocket – just in case.)
There was a thick fog hanging low over the trail, adding an eerie gloom. I wondered if I would even have visibility at the top. And I was a walking ball of nerves. Ugh. Was it worth it?
An owl, white under its wings, glided graceful and silent above the damp fields, hunting for breakfast. Although it could do nothing to keep me physically safe, its presence comforted me.
I sensed, deep down, that the surface fear was masking a greater fear, the real fear that was bubbling up in my head before I got out of bed: The fear of not living before I die. Not showing up. Not following through. Never making anything of this existence. F***ing up. Losing myself down every road, and never getting anywhere.
I wanted to hike up a mountain to watch the sunrise because it might make me feel empowered and alive. It is always worth it, I reminded myself.
I kept going.
The path widened and began to curve around to the back of the mountain, away from the town and the freeway, to where ranches and open space spread out in the direction of the coast.
I suddenly noticed the dark was lifting. My spirits lifted too. The fears subsided. I rounded a bend, and the sky in front of me was free of the fog layer. I caught sight of pale colors streaked over the hills. Wow!!!
I didn’t want to miss the view, so I broke into a run. Uphill.
Memories from my past passed through my mind as ghostly as the fog, visions of my former self, a young girl running up a hill behind her home to watch the sunset, like she did every night; full of passionate excitement to witness nature’s beauty, to be amazed, to be there.
Tears sprang to my eyes. There you are! Welcome back, I thought.
And then I was there. At the top.
Gray-white cloud filled the surrounding valley like a bowl of cream. To the south, fog obscured all view, while a light breeze sent thin wisps of it through the air, toward the north where another peak rose up, an enchanted castle of earth and stone. Drops of dew clung to blades of grass, tiny diamonds suspended on golden stems.
I sat on a boulder and gazed about me with worshipping eyes. Then I settled down to watch the eastern horizon as it painted with fire, and waited for the sunrise to come.
I made it through the darkness, both external and internal. And I did feel alive and empowered. And really freakin’ cold! It’s chilly up on top of a mountain at dawn.
It took what felt like forever, but when the sun finally rose, I felt the warmth and light of it. A new day.
Definitely worth it.
Eastern Sun by Ayla Nereo