The Naturalist's CornerWritten by Don Hendershot
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Crepuscular by nature
The sun knows the secret.
Beginning and end
Are the beautiful times.
The soft warm
And sensual times.
Dawning and setting
The magic times
Of every day.
The sky began to brighten. Clouds and dark green mountains played mirror games with the placid lake and wispy fog. The contrast of smoky white and wet gray clouds draping the mountains, all reflected in the still opal waters struck a nostalgic chord.
Every dawn is different in a thousand ways. Sometimes the sun leaps up, hot and yellow into a clear cloudless sky. Sometimes it casts orange rays over the horizon, web-like, to hoist itself skyward. And sometimes, like last Saturday, it’s simply there to backlight the clouds and shadows as night gives way to gray day.
Yet every dawn is the same. It’s the beginning of a new day. The Earth is awakening and all of Mother Nature’s daily rituals begin anew. In spring and early summer once the Neotropical migrants have arrived to set up housekeeping the cacophony of early morning birdsong can be deafening. We anthropomorphize and talk about happy choristers greeting the day. But these songs, while beautiful, are not accolades to ol’ Sol. They are dire warnings to any interloper that would dare trespass on established nesting territory. The gray squirrel crawls from its den and stretches on the big oak limb before beginning to forage for today’s sustenance. It tests the air with its nose and warily searches the treetops for any hawks also on the prowl for breakfast.
This is a spectacle I never tire of. I was hooked at a very early age. As a little boy, sleeping in a room with my two brothers, all my Dad had to do was open the door and call my name and I was up and out in a flash, getting dressed in the pre-dawn darkness with the light of a dim, naked light bulb, to the smell of bacon and strong coffee. Then there was the clandestine drive through the morning blackness to either woods or water where I learned to be still and quite and watchful, as the curtain would rise on a new day.
Now, as I steal out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to strike out for my bird point surveys for the Forest Service, I wonder if Izzy or Maddy will be bitten by the dawn bug. I certainly hope so.
Watching the world wake up connects you in a visceral way. You will understand how the natural world deals with the continuum of time and see that clocks and hours and minutes are arbitrary human inventions that have little to do with real time. The day starts with the rising of the sun and ends when the last orange glow of evening sunlight is swallowed by night.
I am sure my ancestors — and yours — were crepuscular creatures that started their day with the rising of the sun and prepared for night and rest as the sun waned every evening.