It doesn’t matter where you are, dawn is the same.
I know dawn. We go way back.
My first associations with dawn is that nausea you get when you have to wake up Too Early and drag yourself out of bed. I specifically remember this feeling as a child, when my sister and I would be roused in the tiniest hours to go to one of the ferry ports nearby to begin our annual two week long summer cycle tour.
I don’t feel nauseous at dawn anymore, but I did then and it’s ingrained in my memory. I can still feel it, viscerally.
It’s funny really when you think about it, our relationship with dawn. It happens without us being present throughout the summer and it’s not until winter that we reconnect. Once again to marvel at the phenomena of light cascading over the earth’s curvature.
I don’t think I really saw dawn for a long time, almost never as a teenager. Occasionally dawn and I would greet each other after a barbarically long night out where the clubs at university closed at 5am and I would, by some feat of alcohol, still be awake. But those dawns were different. They didn’t herald a new day, they heralded an error of consumption.
Colours on the eastern horizon
Dawn and I missed each other in 2010 when I got up at 5am every morning to get to work in a neighbouring city for 7am throughout the winter. Still dark when I got to work, the sun was almost entirely gone again when I left.
We missed each other a lot that Christmas.
We left at dawn a lot while sailing long distance. Usually to make the most of the daylight hours, especially if islands were 12 hours apart and there was a reefy exit and entrance.
But it was the Atlantic and Caribbean crossings where dawn and I really got to know each other. My last watch of the night was almost always 3am to 6am.
The dawn watch.
As the night eeked out, my body and brain tried repeatedly to shut down. The coldest, darkest time where my energy wouldn’t be dragging so much as scraping the bottom of the barrel.
But then the sky would change, the stars would fade out, the fabric of the night would disintegrate. And then the grey-pink glow would spread, lighting any clouds from beneath.
With nothing to bar my view, I would see the sun appear as the tiniest dot on the eastern horizon. There is no time when you can get a true sense of the speed of Earth’s rotation like you can at dawn and dusk. It never failed to surprise me, the speed at which the sun would rise.
On the west-going legs, I could sit in the cockpit and look behind, watching this glowing ball of fire make its strides up into the sky. It was always astonishing. Liberating. I had a sunrise playlist.
With the sun’s appearance, my energy would rise with it. My brain would switch back on despite its exhaustion. There is nothing so energising as dawn.
Dawn and its transcendence
And it’s in dawn that you can touch any place. For dawn is always the same. It’s a calm, a solitude, a time when the birds are only just starting to stretch their wings and everything seems quieter.
I got up for dawn yesterday. The darkness of autumn has only just started making itself known and I got up at 6am when darkness was still very much hanging on.
I made myself coffee and put on my running shoes as I finished it. Dawn was breaking and I could see the swans testing the water outside my window. Most of them sleep late, folded up on the footpath until the 9am commuters rouse them from their origami poses.
I was out the door at 6:30am, seeing if I could remember how that running thing works. I live by a footpath and as I jogged my way downriver, there was only one other person out. The river trail was calm, serene, populated by ducks drifting along in the early light.
Cats had appeared where I had never seen cats in the day before. They seemed to relish the calm, perturbed at seeing someone running through their empty territory.
The dawn in Bali had been calm too. The Balinese got up early and the markets were setting up before dawn broke but there was always a sense of peace about it. Even the monkeys would amble in the dawn, toned down from their daytime mischief.
As the year goes on, dawn becomes the territory of us all and we remember its beauty. Its triumph. Sometimes its colours rage, sometimes they flood, sometimes they pierce through clouds and fog. But there’s nothing so all-encompassing as dawn.
New dawn, new day.