With a timetable to keep, the sun waits for no one. Rolling quietly out of our sleeping bags trying not to disturb our friend still wrapped in dreams, we emerged before dawn. Our feet heavy, not yet at full speed, our eyes bleary, not yet focused, we wandered to the overlook. The air, cool at elevation, was very dry. We stood on the White Mountains, the highest range in the Great Basin Desert. It would be another blazing hot day, mid-summer, in the Owens Valley four thousand feet below.
The momentary beauty subdued speech. Alone, together in reverence, we spoke only in gestures and whispers. Awake now, we scrambled amongst the sage and rocks excitedly imaging the ever-changing play of light and shadow. The sun comes-a-round again. Now blinding. Now instantly drying the sweat on my skin. No limits on shutter clicks, silently we prayed at least one image would convey the eternal beauty and connection now felt. The simple beauty found in a morning.
Looking west, the alpenglow danced across the Sierras. Standing somewhere between the void and illusion, Michael Cunningham’s Richard, the poet, a central character in The Hours came to mind. Richard, moments before he dies, says “Like the morning you walked out of that old house…and I thought I had never seen anything so beautiful as the sight of your walking out a glass door in the morning…I just feel so sad. What I wanted to do was so simple. I wanted to create something alive and shocking enough that it could stand beside a morning in somebody’s life. The most ordinary morning. Imagine, trying to do that…I don’t think two people could have been happier than we’ve been.” Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize winning fiction concerns three generations of women impacted by Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway. Eulogizing, Cunningham wrote most of us, if we are very fortunate, are devoured by time itself and “for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we’ve ever imagined…though everyone…knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish…the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.”