You only get so many

by | May 1, 2013 | Outdoors

Though it doesn’t happen often enough, I like to get an early start. I want to be awake, coffee mug in hand, before the rooster even thinks about clearing his throat. Just like Tennessee Ernie Ford said in “Shotgun Boogie”; I want to be on that ridge (or on the water, or just sitting in my backyard) before daylight.
I don’t have a choice in the matter when it comes to a hunting or fishing trip, I’m usually awake before the alarm goes off. It’s a compulsion and I am helpless in its grip. It’s not my fault. All of you that hunt and fish will understand and all of you that don’t will probably call me a liar. My wife tells me this is a cop-out, a way of excusing my addiction by making myself out to be a victim. Think what you want, fellow outdoor junkies will understand.
Sometimes I wake up before the alarm on regular days, days that don’t include a trip to the woods or water. I remember those days, when I woke to see the sunrise, as good days. I think it has to do with watching the world wake up.
Summer sunrises in Arkansas are a sultry, steamy orange. The air feels thick and the humidity is so high it wouldn’t surprise you to see a catfish finning his way across the yard. The backyard birds are vocal, but not loud now that the spring courting is done. Deer make use of this coolest time of day to forage. The squirrels might be cutting on some early hickory nuts. If you’re on the water, the shallows are alive with baitfish and the predators that chase them before the simmering heat sends them diving for the depths.
Autumn mornings are cool and crisp with the spicy smells of the season. The rising sun illuminates a kaleidoscope of color and the forest glows. Dew drops cling to an abandoned spider web and glisten like jewels in the golden rays. Migrating birds are trading shifts and the calls are softer. Busy preparation is the rule, no time for talk. The waters are nearly frothing with activity as calories are consumed in preparation for winter.
The silence of a winter dawn can be deafening. A clear morning following the passage of a polar cold front can make you think that God pushed the mute button. The icy air fills your lungs and the sun seems only a pale promise of warmth. The backyard bird feeders are busy, but hushed. The forest is silent until light reaches the leaf-strewn floor and then only subtle stirrings. Nothing stirs in the water. The coldest temperatures occur at sunrise and southern fish aren’t designed for cold weather. Metabolism slows, food is on a slow burn, dormancy is the rule.

I love sunrises in every season, each with its own distinct flavor, but if I had to pick just one it would have to be spring. Is there a word to describe a spring sunrise? One word? I can try glorious, breathtaking, resplendent, sublime…nope, I can’t pick just one. I don’t think words do it justice anyway.
It’s as though the world is reborn. The birds of every species are nearly deafening as the sun crests the eastern horizon. We think the songs are beautiful, we think the birds sing for joy, but we are wrong. Each note is an invitation to a mate and a threat to a rival. The forest is greening before our eyes as chartreuse overwhelms the gray. Every living stem and leaf competes for those first photons that left the sun eight minutes prior. You can almost see them growing as pastel pink light gives way to amber and gold. The last of the whip-poor-wills bid goodbye and the raucous cawing of crows fill the timber. The warming water has triggered ancient urges as nests are made and eggs are laid in the shallows. And, there’s so much more, but as I mentioned, words are a poor substitute for the experience. There is no substitute for the experience.
The thing about sunrises — as someone other than me once said — is that you only get so many. That statement applies to everything of course; hugs, kisses, good dogs, root canals, etc. We are all mortal beings running along a finite stretch of time and the only thing we know for sure is where it starts.
Looking back, I can’t recall a single time that I’ve regretted getting up early to experience all of this but I can think of a few times that I did regret; the times I denied myself the experience by turning off the alarm and rolling over. You only get so many. I plan to see all that I can.  



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