Home Education Magazine
March-April 1999 - Columns
It's Only Natural - Rise and Shine
When it comes to entertainment, nature has always far exceeded anything that modern technology has come up with. Convincing my two young daughters of this isn't always easy. However, our "rise and shine" mornings have proven a success.
My daughters have become accustomed to my sometimes wacky notions of what a good time might be. When I first suggested an early morning hike up a nearby rocky overlook to watch the sunrise, I expected my then seven-year-old daughter Kate to roll her eyes and ask in her infinite wisdom if I had any idea what time the sun rose. Nothing got Kate out of bed early. Like her dad, she would much prefer to sleep in until the sun had traveled a few miles in its skyward trek. Even then, she'd lay in bed, slowly stretching and yawning and contemplating whether to get up at all that day.
Once again I was surprised by the daughter I thought I knew so well; she was all for it! To this day, watching the sunrise is the only event capable of rousing her from a cozy sleep with a smile on her face. In fact, our "sunrise mornings" will find her literally jumping out of bed. "I've already packed breakfast. You might want to grab a sweater, Mom," she says, as I stumble out of bed. Is this the same daughter who begged for "just five more minutes and I'll get up" at least three or four times yesterday morning?
My younger daughter, Kenna, is an early morning riser on any day. She'll have a song on her lips by the time we're out the door. Kate and I soon join her in a musical plea for "Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun."
A sunrise is one of nature's most extraordinary moments. We slowly watch the stars disappear and morning's first light color the sky. Then the grand finale occurs when that golden orb slowly appears, painting nature's ceiling in an artist's palette of yellows and oranges, pinks and reds, or perhaps preferring to simply rise in one grand circle of light - bold, powerful, magical. With a sunrise comes warmth, joy, freshness and a new beginning. A sunrise gives you hope. So we celebrate!
Sometimes we may sit in complete silence for several minutes with only an awed "ooohhhh" escaping our lips. Other times we have a lengthy discussion on anything from how hot we think the sun might be to why plants need the sun. As we munch on muffins and sip orange juice I might have to field a variety of questions on solar topics. "Mom, is the sun really a star?" "What exactly is a solar eclipse?" "How do they make electricity from solar panels?" Oftentimes our sunrise mornings are followed by a trip to the library to find answers to those intriguing questions my kids never run out of.
A sunrise can be watched from almost anywhere - the beach, a meadow, a backyard, a rooftop or even indoors from a window. But our favorite place to watch the sunrise is the highest place we can get to. It may be the thrill of the climb in the cool predawn light or the feeling of victory when we reach the top. Perhaps it's the way the sunlight slowly spreads itself across the land below us like golden syrup across pancakes, spilling into each and every cranny - spreading cheer into a dark, shadowy world.
Because we travel a lot, we've been able to watch the sunrise from all sorts of locations. The most memorable was an early morning sitting in the cockpit of our sailboat sipping hot chocolate while anchored under the Statue of Liberty. The sunrise over Manhattan was spectacular as dawn turned the steely gray city to gold. But it's not the sunrise itself or the location that always makes these outings special. It's the chance to spend time with my daughters without the usual interruptions of the modern world. Here we have a chance to say what's on our minds and in our hearts - or let silence say it all.
Presently we live in eastern North Carolina, where sunrises have an added bonus. Watching an Atlantic sunrise that paints a morning on a saltwater canvas, perhaps framed by dolphins dancing on white-capped froth, is the reward of early risers along the coast. How can you top the incredible beauty of that golden globe rising out of the watery depths of the Atlantic?
Sometimes getting up in the dark to watch the sunrise gives us the added reward of witnessing other celestial attractions. A meteor shower might be the prelude to a special sunrise. Once while visiting Hatteras Island, the girls and I rose at an unheard of 4:30 AM and headed to nearby Hatteras Lighthouse to observe not only a magnificent sunrise but also to see the Hale-Bopp Comet. The deserted beach belonged only to us. The rhythmic lapping of ocean waves played a melody upon the shore.
Above us, Hale-Bopp shone like a torch. A frozen concoction of gas and dust, it snowballed across our solar system bringing a cloud full of our historic past into our present. To the three of us, standing alone on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the comet appeared simply as a magnificent beacon above the guiding sweep of light from America's tallest lighthouse. Then as dawn slowly turned the sky from velvety black to rich blues Hale-Bopp and his night time companions disappeared. Time stood still between first light and sunrise.
The girls and I sat on the beach facing east towards Gibraltar and waited. Finally a small sliver of fiery red gas pierced the horizon. The sliver grew to a slice. The slice became a wedge and then a semicircle balanced on the blue ocean. Moments later we had a sunrise! A new day. We let the warmth of the sun's rays wash over us as we celebrated with chilled orange juice.
Hard to believe you can feel this great before 7 AM!
© 1999, Barbara Theisen
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