Monday, January 2, 2017

First Sunrise 2017

This is the third in my series of posts on the first sunrise of the year, or Hatsuhi no De in Japanese (初日の出).  Once again, I set off on a very easy quest to see the very first sunlight of the new year.

Just like my last post on this topic, I was awoken just by dulcet tones of the "Marimba" tone on my iPhone, in the morning twilight.  The same phone as last time, I was recently informed that it is now the oldest cell phone on my company's plan.  It's been quite a while since my last hatsuhi outing.  But it still feels very mottainai to replace a phone that does everything I need, so I'm carrying it into the new year.

Today, my dog Shasta decided to join me in heading out into the morning twilight.  The weather was calm and the mid-40s -- not so hot, but not so cold as last year where the near-freezing winds kept me swaddled in my bed.

Being a meteorologist and a very amateur astronomer, naturally the first thing I did as I got outside was to look up.  I was a met with a blank sheet of grayish blues, blending off into a greenish hue in the far east.

The only thing in the sky was Jupiter, high to the south, its great light piercing the twilight.  It's the kind of sight that most people will easily miss, but if you know to look along the ecliptic plane, it's obvious.  And Jupiter was quite the welcome sight, as I hadn't seen the shepherd planet for months now.

Lately, the dominance of Venus as the evening star has been unnerving me just a little, playing along with the half moon that graced our skies on Election Day.  A moon cut in twain, one-half light and one-half dark.  I tell myself that these lights in the sky don't have real meaning, but they still have the meaning our subconscious gives them anyway.

But my attention was drawn earthward by the sharp click of a green-breasted hummingbird perched on our abutilon.  He's half asleep still, but he keeps tweeting me his warning: "Hey, this is my nectar tree buddy, so watch your step."

Shasta has since finished the first round of the yard, and came back to ask me what we're going to do today.  Perhaps I was inspired by the Thin Man movie I watched last night, or just the fact that a wire fox terrier is game for anything.  "C'mere Shasta, let's go up on the roof."

I hoisted Shasta up onto the roof, shingles still damp from yesterday's rain, and then hoisted myself.  Shasta took a quick appraisal of everything that was around, smelling every object he could find from the fireplace to the satellite dish.

Is this a sewer vent?  Oh wow, this is super interesting.

Well, sometimes a wire fox terrier can be a little too game.  Or gamey.  So I called him up to the top, and held him on my lap as we waited for the sunrise on the roof's apex.

The sky brightened enough to hide Jupiter, but we since had picked up a few travelers: loud and annoying seagulls, announcing the day's business as they flew inland on their routes.  And a jet high above us cast just a glimmer of a reflection of the sun's rays, but with nary a wisp of cloud behind it.

A look across the treetops to the south revealed a lovely green land, even more verdant than looking at it from below.  Maybe too green for this particular land, but we built it, we earned it, and with any luck the rain will keep coming to sustain us.

On reflection of what we had made of our land here, something just switched inside me.  A moment of deep grief for all of the things we've lost last year.  For the wounds we've taken.  A worry that this, all of this, could fall to ruin.  Not a sense of mono no aware, but something deeper and crueler.  In order to create, one must destroy, but destruction without creation is another thing entirely.

Off to the north, Ventura's iconic Two Trees are fast becoming One Trees as the eastern eucalyptus of the pair slowly succumbs to damage from the long drought.  Below it and much nearer to me sits a giant parking structure, nearly equal in size to the new hospital I mentioned before.  The problem with Southern California architecture, as they've said in the LA Times, is that the car always wins.  It loomed over that horizon, mostly featureless, mostly concrete, a gray reminder of the view of the hills we've mostly given up.

I gave Shasta a hug, and told him that everything is going to be OK, and that we were here to see a sunrise.  But he's a dog, and I think we know who I was really trying to convince.

By this time, the sky had grown to a light blue, with pinkish high clouds in the far distance.  The wind was calm at first, but it steadily grew in force in the ten minutes before sunrise.  A final gust of wind heralded the arrival of the sun, as the very first rays broke across the hills.

About two minutes later, my own first ray of sunlight flashes into my eyes, filtered through the wide branches of a distant star pine.  I point it out to Shasta, but he's still not really getting why he's up here on the roof sitting on his human's lap.  But hey, it's different and something to do.

The sun's disc quickly resolved into its proper shape, and we stood up, taking in the new year.  I felt a sense of relief, that I had really and finally escaped the last year.

But then I really looked around.  The world I had seen filled with soft shades and hazy colors was no more.  It had suddenly sharpened into a world filled with strong lines of light and shadow.  So much more light, but so many more shadows crisply defined by the hilltops, palm trees, and walls.  Daybreak is the moment when everything just changes.

I like to think of our lives here on Earth as something like a sunset.  That is to say, we live such a short time, surrounded by incredible beauty and rapid change, before we head into the unknown night.

But sunrise too has power.  And maybe it describes us just as well.  Perhaps we humans are still at the beginning of all things.  And at a time like now, we can see the shadow and the light clearly for the first time in a long time.

Everything looks a little different now than it did last year.  The light and shadow are so clearly defined.  But there are so many colors now too, and those colors will shine.  Now that we can see all the shadows, we can awaken into the light.

Well, eventually.  I was still pretty sleepy, so it was time for me and Shasta to head back to bed for a bit.  The day was ready for us, but we were still not quite ready for the day.