We are camping just off the beach, about 1100 miles from home. The husband has a cold, and is being a good sport about it, but needs all of the rest that he can get. My other companion for the week is a teenager whose natural tendency is to sleep until noon. He received the majority of his Christmas gifts early, so there was nothing driving him to awaken before dawn with me.
I began waking early in the morning when the children were still young. That hour between 5 and 6 am was often the only time that I had to myself. While I love to be around people, I also love my quiet time – time to reflect, read, write, or just sit quietly and perhaps scratch the dog’s ears.
I woke today around 6 am and made a cup of coffee, pulled on my hoodie and stuck my feet in a pair of flip flops and padded off in the darkness to the beach. Sunrise was “scheduled” for 7:10 a.m. When I made it to the water’s edge, there was another 40 minutes to wait. Although daylight had not yet arrived, a hint of rose-colored light brightened the night sky. The ocean glowed. The sand sparkled. Seagulls and sandpipers pecked away at specks washed in on the waves.
I thought that I was there all alone, but as the sky brightened, I saw us, the dozen or so people who were there to greet Christmas morning before it was truly morning. There we stood, each alone, but all together, watching the sky from the wet sand.
A man in a Santa hat walked along the water getting some exercise. We wished each other Merry Christmas resumed our silence. The water began lapping at my toes, and I moved back a few steps. I encountered my artwork engraved on the sand from the morning before. I found the short stick I had stowed in the rocks. I moved a few paces and scratched some words into the sand. In a moment the water rose up and washed them away completely, as if they had never been there in the first place.
I sometimes wonder what will happen to all of my words when I am gone. The blogs, posts and half-finished novels fill volumes of paper and unknown number is bits and bytes in cyberspace. They say that once something is on the web, it’s there forever. That doesn’t, however, necessarily mean that anyone will ever read it.
A heavy layer of clouds sat just at the horizon. The sun would not be peeking out just above the sea on this morning like the ball of fire that had appeared at precisely 7:09 am yesterday.
Eventually, we solitary sunrise observers were joined by couples and families. We were all there to welcome another day. I sang quietly to myself, “silent night, holy night,” believing that the waves and the gulls would mask my voice, but I heard a voice join mine, and then another. We sang our carol, and the clouds turned pink. It almost looked as if there were a city skyline just at the place where the ledge of cloud met the water.
We stood in silence then, watching as the light rose and the sky turned blue. Pink clouds streaked across the sky. Eventually the ball of fire emerged from its cloud blanket. My coffee was gone. My companions were leaving, one by one and two by two. We had witnessed the dawning of Christmas Day there on the beach, mostly alone and mostly in relative silence. I turned and made my way back “home,” where the menfolk were still sleeping.
I’d received my gift from my little family early, so there were no packages for me to unwrap. Instead, I watched as a brand new day was born. As they say, “every day is a gift – that’s why we call it the ‘present'”.
Joyous Christmas to each of you,and for those whose holiday has been dimmed by loss, may you find comfort with those who love you.