A dawn revisited
Feb. 8, 2002
I am sitting on an old rotten log far back in a river bottom and all is silent and black. It is before dawn. I was able to find my log only because I have been here before during daylight, and I knew it was beyond a tall stump
in a certain bend of the trail.
There are some very quiet minutes before the action starts to do nothing but think. I think of many previous days that began much this same way, in the cool, quiet blackness. I remember the good days. Somehow the days that didn't go so well escape recollection. Only the cherished thoughts are allotted time here in the last moments of night.
Why am I here sitting on an old log in the dark woods when most everyone else is asleep? Why have I violated the habit of normal everyday life and made my way here to this unlikely spot well before the day's beginning?
Suddenly a cardinal makes his familiar chirp. This beautiful red bird that brightens our landscape is seldom preceded by another creature in calling attention to a new day. Only the night creatures call earlier. I am not an accomplished bird watcher, but I have befriended this bird because he is always around in places I like to be. We see him often in the cities, but he loves the deepest swamplands just as well.
I smile as the cardinal's chirps and the gray dawn appear together. He didn't let me down. I admire his determination to be first. Somewhere another cardinal dutifully joins in, and next a brown thrasher calls back at them. I hear a barred owl sign off the night and a crow finds something to caw about angrily, as crows always do. A day has begun. The symphony is beautiful, I actually don't stop to think about it, but I somehow know inside why I have sacrificed sleep to be in this place at this time. I really know.
It is our good fortune that we have this new beginning every 24 hours, with some variations that lend special character to that particular day and place. So many of us never witness it. Scores of folks would not consider such a late night trip into the backwoods. I feel sorry for them. Every time I experience the birth of a new day far off in some wild, unspoiled place it seems to set things in the right perspective. I get a keener insight into the meanings of words like purpose and reality.
I think we owe it to ourselves to bring in a new day outdoors once in a while. Set out and see it! Participate in it! Far back in nature's covers is best, but even outside on the lawn is enriching. I am drawn to the scene of daybreak often, and I am rewarded.
The deer hunter who waits in a stand is one who enjoys daybreak watching. It was on a deer stand in Texas recently that I again heard the ever-present cardinal make the earliest morning call. I thought of how widespread he is in the South and how determined he is to be first each day, the principle trait I admire in him.
Spring turkey hunters perhaps get out earlier than any other hunters. They hear the red bird's early call, as he is with us through each season, as faithful as the sun.
Cool, crisp dawns with all the wild sounds are matchless. Even wet ones with crashing thunderstorms and swirling winds have their beauty. Their drama sets the tone for the day to follow – that one special day.
I want to participate in nature's opening ritual as often as I can. And when I can't be here in my ringside seat on this old rotten log, the memories of other dawns are always present to remind me that enormous beauty is being poured out upon us; every single day.
This column ran about 1979 and received favorable reader comments.