Walking Into the Dawn

Before setting out for morning services, John and I stood outside of our hermitage, which overlooked the valley and the monastery below, and gazed into the pre-dawn sky; the same sky we examined the previous evening after returning from Vespers, when John pointed out to me the mighty Orion. Now, as then, the moon and stars enchanted us, and so we delayed the start of our journey down the mountainside and to the monastery. Standing close together and bundled against the crisp, very cold mountain air, we scanned the mountain ridge looking to see where the sun would make its appearance. Personally, I was ambivalent as to whether I wanted the sun to rise at all. I was quite content with the way things were.

Just as we turned to begin the downward trek my eye caught a glimpse of bright gold glittering from the top of a peak along the ridge of the mountain range. “There it is!” I cried, pointing to where I thought the sun was about to show itself. John looked, and in the manner of a man much acquainted with Nature’s ways, gently explained that I was pointing southward, not a likely location for the sun to rise. Yet we were both riveted by the radiance of the light upon the peak, and then saw another and then another peak burst as if into flame, casting brush strokes of silver and blue across the sky above the ridge.

So much light and the sun nowhere to be seen. Trepidation filled the void of expectation.

Without words passing between us, John and I turned toward the path and began walking in a silence that was pregnant with expectant wonder, the only sounds coming from our breath, and boots falling upon hard packed snow.   We walked in darkness; my mind trying to wrap itself around the beauty of the night sky, now becoming lighter and showing red across the horizon.

About thirty minutes passed and the walking produced a meditative mood of acceptance: the sun would appear in its own time – I was fairly sure of this.
John broke the silence with an urgent whisper to stop, his finger pointing toward a rise in the woods just above our hermitage. And from that place came melodious sounds that were at once familiar and obscure; high pitched feral sounds from a chorus of coyotes that, by my reckoning, were assembled just to the left of where John predicted the sun would rise. John and I listened in astonishment to the music; and when John said that these mountain creatures were singing the morning liturgy, I nodded my head in joy and wonderment. And a thought entered my mind as we continued down the slopping path that maybe today the day would break upon the earth not by the rising sun, but from the throats of a pack of wild beasts singing the morning anthems.

The mountain path leveled off as it turned into a roadway for vehicles heading to the monastery. Here we spied the snow capped peaks of Mt Sopris, now bathed in brilliant brightness and towering majestically above the lesser peaks; the glittering light from the snow illuminating the valley floor. Impulsively, I turned to the eastern ridge to see where now the sun had surely risen. For what else could explain the blinding brightness of Mt Sopris?

I looked in vain. The stone beneath the point of the sun’s trajectory had taken on a softer hue, as the black of the night turned to pre-dawn grey. But the elusive sun remained hidden.

Even the dazzling and magnificent Sopris was only a mere reflection of a greater light that was yet to come! At this moment, whatever serenity I garnered under the night sky turned to a fearsome awe, for I realized that I was in the presence of a primal, elemental power. Right here. On this road, at this moment.  And I was terrified to look into its face.

John and I walked on in silence, without speaking but with a knowing that did not require words or even thoughts. I felt our spirits joined in the wonder of who we were and where we were heading; two voyagers moving freely into unchartered space seeking the source of the truths embedded in the moon and the stars, in the sun that will rise in its time, not ours, in the primitive call heard in the wild, and in the fearsome awe that comes when we walk in darkness, under stars, guided by the inner light of a hidden power.

Ed Speedling
Philadelphia, PA