Scream! Scream! The alarm made an offensive noise that jarred me out of a state of peaceful blackness. I opened my eyes and looked at the blackness still sitting on the bedroom. The curtains were half open, but none of the usual morning sunlight was falling delicately onto the carpeted floor. Five-thirty in the morning is a very inconvenient hour to wake for a sunrise.
I fetched the children. Outside a mocking bird was trilling away in his split-personality sort of way, hurrying day much too soon. The air was cool and light against my skin, in contrast to the heavy toddler that had wrapped herself around me.
Still in pajamas, the kids nestled down into the car seats. I remember that experience well when I was a child. There is an excitement to being exhausted in the early morning hours. It is a mixture of change of routine and expectation. There is a sense of safety while nuzzled down into those car seats, awaiting whatever adventure would follow along with the flicker of golden streetlights and the rhythmic sound of wheels on asphalt.
The Salty Sunrise Smell
It was a short drive. The salt was heavy in the air. It always is in the morning, and I don’t know why. Maybe the moisture? Maybe it is the lack of human noise and activity to distract from all there is on display. The salt seems to cleanse the lungs and the sinuses as it enters the body, righting things that have been misaligned.
Bare toes hit soft sand. The sand quickly infiltrates everything, tossed into the air by each footstep that sinks downward into the fluff. Sand flicked on calves; sand collecting on the underside of bags thrown over arms; sand already smeared all down the tot’s leg.
“Hurry,” I said in a hushed voice to the children—it seemed wrong to speak too harshly in such a sacred environment. Nature’s church does not like to be disturbed. “The sky is growing bright. It is almost sunrise time.”
The Sandy Sunrise Grapple Skidder
Flutter a blanket in the air, like a magic carpet coming in for a graceful landing on the sugar sand. The children took their positions. I began to distribute sunrise breakfast into enthusiastic little hands. The boy handled a muffin with one hand, while his grapple skidder left thick tracks in the sand with his other. A flock of seagulls collected nearby—it is never too early for breakfast.
A lone male grackle lighted next to the blanket and cocked his head at me. As his beak opened wide to chatter, he puffed up the feathers around his neck. He looked very regal with that crown of black feathery fluff surrounding his face—he was Nature’s Prince of the Sky. Then the prince flew away into the salty fog that was disguising the human structures lining the beach.
The Sunrise Sky Slowly Separated
The show was just beginning. Pink light gently touched the clouds low to the horizon, and the light slowly spread as the minutes flew by. The curtains on the stage were beginning to slowly pull back.
The light began to reveal gobs of gelatinous creatures flattened here and there along the freshly washed beach. They looked to have been neatly folded in half as they melded themselves into part of the earth, no longer sea creatures. Light fell on the sand around them, turning it golden, and the creatures looked a bit like something magical. Like a lost glass slipper, newly washed ashore for the prince to find.
“Look!” I said as a break in the clouds exposed a ball of orange fire just above the horizon. “There it is. The star of the show.” The boy glanced up, but there was still so much work for the grapple skidder to accomplish. The tot danced in front of me, turning into a dark silhouette against the blinding gold behind her. She danced around like only three-year-old girls can do, which are by far the closest creatures to fairies.
And the Sunrise Show Stopped
And then the show was over. The show is never really over though. I just waited twelve hours, and by then the boy had a lot of work to accomplish with tossing his ball and the tot was dancing around in the blue light of dusk like the closest thing to a fairy.
Sometimes sunrises, sunsets, and Sundays in St. Augustine are so sublime.