A continuation of the journey that began on January 1, 2010, recorded in "a year of getting up to meet the day." After 365 consecutive sunrise outings in that year, I couldn't bear to give up the dawn. This blog (no longer daily) will be informed and inspired by the rising light of the morning sun.


Monday, February 28, 2011

Caribbean sunrise - the Wanderbird

J and I just returned from a truly unique experience.  We were invited to join a group aboard a refurbished North Sea fishing vessel, renovated and transformed into a recreational ship.  It sleeps up to 12 guests, 8 crew, and the captains - Rick and Karen Miles.

I have never been a sea-faring person.  I am in my element in fresh water, but the ocean has always intimidated me.  I love to watch it from the shore, but when I am on it or in it, I have always experienced a perpetual state of tension.

After 6 days on the Wanderbird - this one-of-a-kind vessel filled with history, sea lore, and absolute devotion to detail - I discovered for the first time the natural rhythms of the sea.  It became so ingrained in my being that even now, three days off the boat, I have moments of feeling the floor rise and fall as though I am back on the water.  I miss it.

I was up for the sunrise four times.  Here is the first - with the sun coming up behind the tiny island of Culebrita, next to the slightly larger island, Culebra, which sits just off the eastern shore of Puerto Rico.  They were taken on Feb. 20, 2011.  In the photo above, you can see an old lighthouse on top of the hill.  The views from there were purported to be "some of the best in the entire Caribbean region."

Here are some views of the lighthouse, which looks like it may not last long.  It was an old Spanish outpost a couple of centuries ago, and until very recently was maintained by the US Coast Guard.  Unfortunately, it appears to have been abandoned.

The brass cap from the cupola of the building is lying on the ground.  The solar powered light rests on a frame whose metal supports have worn to nearly nothing.  The old, rusting spiral staircase may not be safe for climbing before long.  But we were lucky enough to get up to the top for the commanding view.

It is a very different palette of color from the one I came home to.  I do love winter in Maine, but it's hard not to feel as though someone drained all the color out of the world today!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

the world beginning to wake up

sunrise:  6:33    20 degrees F.

Today's pre-dawn light woke me up with its siren glow.  I had to go out and bask in it.

We've been working on getting snow off the goat barn roof, so I went up to retrieve shovels, and take a couple of photos from a new perspective.

Good morning for dog play...

and Guster was very interested in this single blackberry stalk that J left in place when he mowed last summer.  We'll see if it survives the grazing deer of late winter.

The light that illuminates our world has visibly shifted.  It's more than the northerly shift of sunrise.  The angles of light throughout the day create an entirely different feel in the atmosphere - like the world is beginning to wake up.  The birds know it too, and are singing their exultations of celebration.

I love this time of year, especially when we have stretches of bright sunny days (even in below zero temperatures).  

It has been a while since I have received a sunrise contribution  -  Come on everybody!  Get up and meet the day - then share a photo, and if you are so inclined, share your thoughts as well.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

how we feed our brains

 sunrise:  6:43

Since he got a hand-me-down ipod from our daughter, one of J's new interests is podcasts.  We often listen to them on long car trips instead of music or radio, and we have been both enriched and entertained. 

I am struck by how profoundly one can be swayed by the informational input that he or she absorbs.  This astonishing age of communication has us so immersed in a constant barrage of information of every sort - thoughtful, humorous, inflammatory, discouraging, uplifting, profound, inane, deeply true and patently false. 

Even when we don't seek it out, it is constantly coming our way - in the sidebars of our email and Facebook accounts,  on TV's in public waiting rooms, on street corner radios, commercials, postings both paper and electronic.  Unless we go into the woods and fields with nothing electronic in our pockets, we are never free of it.

I have three observations about this -

1.  I don't think we realize that the fuel we feed into our eyes and ears, thence to the brain, is as important to our general state of health as the fuel we feed into our stomachs for nutrition. Everyone needs to take a far more active and deliberate role in selecting the inputs that they consume.  If you want to become depressed, feed the fire of rebellion, or confirm all of your darkest fears about humanity and the world, you can do so quite easily by choosing to listen to endless disgorgings of negativity.  If you would like balance, intelligence, both useful and hopeful perspectives that look towards solutions and progress - those are there as well.  It is in the music you listen to, the books you read, the movies you watch the radio stations you choose, the websites you scan.  We used to talk about the company you keep, meaning people that you spend time with.  That, too, remains important.  But other influences on our psyches are rampant and omnipresent.  We have to be careful.

2.  We are becoming more and more uniformly molded by our informational nutrition.  Some claim that there never has been an original thought.  If there was truth in that outlook before, I think it is more pronounced today.  Have you ever thought you had a cool new idea?  I'm going to be a vegetarian!  I'm going to buy a ukelele!  I'm going to forward this cool video!  I'm going to switch to gmail!   Then you discover that tens of thousands of other people have recently had the same thought.

3.  The information is all there - how is it possible, then, that people can still remain ignorant about so many things?  One of the podcasts J and I listened to recently was Jonathan Safran Foer talking about his recent book, "Eating Animals."  He is not inflammatory or dogmatic.  He recognizes a middle ground.  But he also points out that we all know perfectly well how cows and chickens are treated in factory farms - squashed into tiny spaces, beaks removed or wings unable to open, injected with various things to make them grow obesely fat to the point of disability.  But locomotion is irrelevant for these beasts, whose sole function is to become our food.  How many of us would look at an animal under these conditions and say that's okay?  And yet, we still eat KFC, and McDonalds, and buy grocery store meat and frozen wings, all of which are products of those unhappy creatures.  This lecture hit me hard.  In how many more ways am I denying what I know in order to maintain the status quo of my comfortable life?


Whew.  Sometimes a walk in the light of dawn can unleash more than I was expecting.


We had a brief thaw the other day, with a bit of drizzly rain.  For the first time this winter we have a hard crust on top of the snow.  Suddenly the dogs and I are free to walk all around the fields, 2 feet above the ground.  It's a nice place to be.

Friday, February 4, 2011

who are you? what do you do?

sunrise:  6:51

Maine has no monopoly on the snow market this year, but I will share some pictures of this magical frozen morning nonetheless.  The temperature was down around zero, the air was sparklingly crisp, every twig twinkling with a crystalline coat. 

The newspaper reports about the economic impact of the snow, I know it causes trouble, but it's also glorious, and so much fun!


I've been thinking lately about how we define ourselves in the public forum.  How do we find our selves in the course of a lifetime, and how do we present them?

When you meet someone new at a party, what's the first thing they ask after you exchange names?  So - what do you do?  It's so nice to have an easy answer - "I'm a doctor." "I'm a teacher." "I'm a neuro-physicist."  But a lot of people don't have a ready category for what they do - entrepreneur, maybe, or world explorer.  For me it was a struggle for years when I was raising my children, because I was never happy with any of the labels:  Housewife?  Blecch.  Homemaker?  eh.  Stay at Home Mom?  well...I didn't stay at home ALL the time.  Full time Mom?  sometimes worked.

Once I tried "career mom" on a bio page.  When a woman heard that I had written a few things for publication over the years, she said, "That doesn't sound like a career mom."

When I told people I was a mom, I usually got a nice pat on the back, "Good for you!" they might say.  Then the conversation drifted away.  Once the reaction was dramatically different, and it's an illustrative tale.

J and I were at a rehearsal dinner once, for a wedding where we only knew one person.  When we arrived at the crowded restaurant, the mother of the groom greeted us with great warmth.  Who are you? Nice to meet you.  What do you do?

There was that question.  I tried something different this time:  "I'm home with children," I told her.

"OH!!" she cried and put a hand to her chest.  She gave me an uncomfortably long embrace as she exclaimed over the wonder of it all.  "That is SO incredible.  You have GOT to meet my daughter!"  And she disappeared into the crowd.

J and I were baffled and wondering what in the world made motherhood such a hot point for this woman.  But, why not?  How flattering, at last, to have such deep appreciation.  She returned with her daughter.

"Honey, this is Robin, and she WORKS WITH HOMELESS CHILDREN!!"

oops!  So THAT was it.  I suppose working with homeless children does sound nobler, but I had to explain that the children I worked with had a very nice home, actually.

Evidently, the woman's children told us later, their mother is a bit wacky and does things like that all the time.

So now I can't define myself as a mom any longer, and I am getting more used to answering "I'm a writer" without hedging and qualifying my answer.  Choosing a label for ourselves can have a pretty powerful impact on how the world receives us, as I discovered.  So far no one has embraced me with abandon when I say I'm a writer, but at least it leads to a few follow up questions.

Still, maybe I ought to think about working with homeless children.