August 24, 2021

“Sunrise,” looking east.


Wake!  For the Sun who scatter’d into flight

The Stars before him from the Field of Night,

Drives Night along with them from Heav’n,

and strikes

The Sultan’s Turret with a shaft of Light

-Omar Kayyam


Christine and I decide we will walk to the top of Mount Wachusett (a Native American term meaning “mountain place”) to meet the dawn.  The mountain is about forty minutes away from where Waldo and I live, less from where Christine lives in Holden.  It is only 2005 feet above sea level at its peak, but it is the highest point in Massachusetts east of the Connecticut river.   A short walk up a dirt trail or paved road gets you to the top from a parking lot at its base.  We decide to meet at the parking lot at 4:30 AM in order to get to the top well before 5:26 AM, which is the forecast time of sunrise.  In the parking lot, it is quite dark, but the dim sky-glow from nearby Worcester is more than adequate to walk by, without needing flashlights.  The air is still and cool and there is little sound, other than that of the stirring of awakening life in the wild – birds and insects mostly.

The road that goes to the top is less than one mile long, so we look for a way that will take us on a more circuitous path so Waldo can get his six-mile morning walk in.  We find a road that winds around the base of the mountain that is 2.2 miles long and take that.  The rest of the Waldo walk, Waldo and I can fill in around Marlborough.

The road is bordered by trees I haven’t seen in Massachusetts before – European beech, European plum and witch hazel, to name just a few.  I’m sure they can be found elsewhere in the state, I just haven’t noticed them.  It’s funny how I can walk by so much without being aware, but I guess my mind spends a lot of time wandering and wondering in places where my body is not.  I have developed the habit, once in a while, of looking at the leaves around me as I walk and noticing when I see something different.  I then take out my handy iPhone app and speciate what I see.  It has broadened and deepened my experience of roaming around in nature.

Waldo seems to really enjoy walking someplace new.  I may be reading more into his pile of hair than is warranted, but he seems to flit about from this attraction to that, sniffing everywhere and, once in a while, picking up a new stick, with a heightened fervor compared to our usual jaunts.  He certainly doesn’t need any stinking app to help drag his attention into the present moment — that’s where he lives.  I’d be willing to bet that the smells of the mountainside are different from those of home and that, if nothing else, would pique his interest.  At any rate, his tail is up and wagging back and forth as he trots along out in front at the end of the leash.

The morning twilight slowly brightens as we saunter up the gentle slope.  A good half-hour before sunrise, we can see our surroundings almost as if in full daylight.  I recall watching the full eclipse of the sun when it occurred a couple of years ago.  Even though the sun was totally blocked out, refraction of light by the atmosphere kept the spot on the Earth that was in the moon’s full shadow from being dark.  It produced more of a twilight, much like what we’re seeing now.  Christine thinks we should start out an hour earlier next time so we can more fully appreciate the whole sunrise process.

Before very long, we come to an overlook where we can look out to the east and see much of the country that lies between us and the Atlantic Ocean.  Now that we can see past the trees, we find that there is a thick fog laying in the low places, valleys and dales, and that the sky is completely overcast.  We might have predicted this, if we’d paid attention to the forecast, but we aren’t really here for the sight of sunrise.  We’re here more for the early morning experience, despite what nature might throw at us.  It’s perfectly okay that we aren’t going to see more than a suggestive hint of the sun as it comes over the horizon, wherever that is, today.  It reminds me of Mount Kilimanjaro once we got to the top.  It was awash in fog and the glorious vista that must have been there underneath all that was blocked from view.  Like today, though, the fact did not diminish the experience even a little.  It just made it different.

At the peak, we meet a small group of other people who took the shorter route to the top.  We seem not to be the only ones who go out their way to watch a beautiful sunrise, even if we did miss it this time.  There will be other days.

And Waldo?  The difference seems to make no impression on him at all.


Fog makes the world look smaller.

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