I awoke this morning at 5:24, tugged as I often am when by the sea to rise and greet the dawning sun. My family has been coming to this beach house for 27 years, never missing a summer. It is rare that a visit goes by without catching at least one sunrise.
Sometimes at dawn the horizon is overcast, dulling and delaying the moment when the source of our light can be seen peeking over the water’s edge. But this morning, the few wispy clouds upon the horizon were an enhancement, not an impediment, serving like a theatrical backdrop to the grand stage upon which the sun made its appearance precisely at 5:40.
That this show, and another comparable one at night, happens every day, continues to astonish me. That it has happened every day of my life is awesome enough. That this singular act of making days has occurred without fail for billions of years is stunning. Every 24 hours (give or take a bit) our planet turns and every 24 hours (give or take a bit) this ball of light and energy silently, gently, gracefully appears, conferring with its appearance the stuff and substance of life.
So why is it that I almost totally ignore it except when on vacation? How can I so blithely enjoy its gifts moment to moment in the work-a-day world without so much as a nod in acknowledgement and gratitude? I suppose I could argue that it is because I cannot see the horizon from my home, that the magic happens beyond view, out of sight. But that is a lazy, indulgent excuse. My food is also out of sight - in the refrigerator and behind cabinet doors - but I don’t forget about it! The truth more likely is because I am otherwise distracted, or sleeping, or working or tending to matters I deem more important. That hardly justifies things.
The ancients - for whom artificial lighting was a demanding, expensive, necessary extravagance whose use had to be kept to a minimum - could not help but notice the transition from day to night and back again.
The rituals conferred upon us by the rabbis of old call us to notice the moments of dawn and the sun’s turning in. Our daily prayer is book-ended by the rhapsody of sunrise and sunset. We cannot say the morning prayers until there is light enough to distinguish between blue and green, enabling us to tell apart the greens of the ocean from the blues of the sky, and to recognize the color of the turquoise/blue/purple thread in the middle of the tzitzit . (The source of this color is a snail that comes from the sparkling depths of the sea and captures the sterling clarity of the sky.) Days come to an end when the stars appear.
How much better might my days - my life - be, how much less upset by both petty annoyances and grand disappointments, in short, how much richer, if I bothered to remember this, everyday?