Morning Light

Morning Light

Fifty-two degrees at sunrise here in San Francisco. Eerily warm here for so early in the day, but we’re expecting an almost unheard of seventy-eight. Pre-dawn reading has been done, dogs have been ushered onto upstairs deck for their first daily pit-stop, so they can relax and go back to sleep while I have my two cups of strong Turkish tea, check email and online news, organize my thoughts for the day. A newsletter has arrived from Southwest Archaeology Today, so I may rejoice and save it for later delectation. The photo that appears at the top of this paragraph was taken just after sunrise this morning in the living room. My ideal is early morning light, from the first pale glow of approaching day in the eastern night sky to the moment when the sun pops over the mountains. After that it’s all anticlimactic, as far as I’m concerned. Nothing can even come close to that hour or so of unstained freshness, and it is pretty much my idea of how heaven itself will begin, to the chanting of the ancient monastic hymn for daybreak, ‘Jam lucis orto sidere’, ‘The star of light now risen’, the warm scent of forest trees heavy on the air, songbirds calling out to one another, tea waiting to be drunk and loved ones about to be re-encountered and embraced. For now, however, as far as they are concerned, more appropriate lines would be from Mandelstam’s ‘Tristia’: ‘Who can know / at the word “separation” / what kind of parting awaits?’ So we bear up, look forward to that happy day, and meanwhile prepare ourselves for the tasks which await. There is much desk work to be done, as always, and I feel a strange enthusiasm for it right now–perhaps I’m finally coming out of my nine-month funk. There is a poem to be written for a collection being organized for the centennial of New Mexican statehood, a book review for Louis Hemon’s ‘Marie Chapdelaine’, a letter granting permission for an ancient cousin to be buried in a family plot in St. Helena’s pioneer cemetery, probably the only Napa Valley real estate I’ll ever own, and some translations of Soviet stories by Vera Inber to be edited and moved along. Spudnik, Anya and Misha are finally sick of sleep and ready for their brown rice, chicken broth and vitamins, and at 6:51 the sun is already high in the sky. ‘Flammescat igne caritas / Accendat ardor proximos’, the monks will soon be singing at the prayers of the third hour of the day: ‘May charity enflame in fire / May love for neighbor ignite’. Amen.

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