Forest Dawn

The morning seems to be a special one. Last evening I sat outside by my little campfire to watch the night sky for the meteor shower. I watched fairly carefully for most of an hour, my neck cocked backward, staring into the deep darkness. I saw one. It was a really good one, too. Probably one of the brightest streaks of light that I have seen in perhaps five years. It shot out of the northern horizon line and zipped brilliantly across the sky before going out. It seemed to leave a sizzle of light along its path, and when the light from the meteor had fully extinguished, I could still see it in my mind. I thought this was going to be a wonderful night to be watching and waiting for more action, but it was the only one. I suppose that if there had been many, no single one would have seemed that special to me. With only one, I considered the event to be a rarity. I waited a long time for that one. So often when I hear that a meteor shower is coming to our corner of the universe, I go sit out in my Adirondack chair, only to be disappointed by a sky of high cloudiness or low creeping fog. That is how life goes when you live on the coast. Even stars themselves sometimes seem to be so special when so many of the evenings are so completely blanketed over with the quiet darkness.

I hardly slept. Yesterday people down in town were enjoying the sunshine as though it were some sort of ceremony. The weatherman had told us that summer had finally come to a conclusion. We were to expect a change in the weather. In the late afternoon of yesterday, a wind came up and blew overripe leaves off the trees. We took a drive down to the Esplanade in Capitola village. We managed to grab a bench and watch the beginning of the change of the weather. There were quite a few people laying on the sand in front of us. The wind was shifting, at moments from the north, and then swinging 180°, with quick, short blasts coming out of the south. Several people were eating pizzas, defending their afternoon snack from the seagulls who hang out here and watch that any crumbs hitting the ground do not go to waste. On the beach, a little child was crawling around in the sand, and the gusts of wind would lift the loose sand and blow them into the eyes of the child. The mother eventually saw what was happening and sheltered her child. I don’t know why the scene struck me. Maybe I saw myself in that child, not knowing which way the wind might blow, not knowing how to protect myself.

Sometime late last night while I tried to sleep, a thin, moist layer of air moved in over the forest and over our house. I got out of bed really early to have a look outside. I noticed that this influx of air was warm, I would say tropical. I was not expecting tropical. I was expecting air to be turning blustery and cool. That is how the weather changes in October when the lasting promise of summer finally gives up the ghost. I wandered about in the dark. I could hear a hoot owl in the forest, and some lonesome cat meowing for attention. I have given up keeping a cat. I’ve had so many. They run away, or they get hit by cars going up and down the road. My last cat got eaten by a coyote. That did it for me. I wondered this morning if perhaps this one was being stalked.

The business of life continues no matter what the weather is doing. Neighbors get out of bed early, start up their cars, and head off to work. It is such a luxury for me to be awake at this hour and not have to participate in the traffic dance, but to remain outside in the still darkness, and enjoy the coming of dawn. Having lived in the same spot for nearly 40 years, I spent so many early mornings dragging my briefcase down our steep driveway, down to where I parked my car under a redwood tree, wishing that I could just spend more time at home listening to the early morning sounds in the forest, without that mounting tension of having to go off and spend all day in a concrete building far away. After stepping out of that life and finding a new liberty in each day, I wonder how I did it for so long, that is, go to work, when the life here at home among the animals and the trees always seemed so much more life-giving.

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