Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

From A Year of Morning Thanks

The limits of perfection

I’m a weekend photographer, too busy to get out to the hills west of town any more often, which means I miss a ton of good days, dawn and dusk. Some mornings I walk to school and grit my teeth in the face of some monstrous, beautiful dawn, my school bag a ball and chain.

Every Saturday of this new year that I’ve been able to get away--including this one--have been, well, perfect, that is to say blemishless, the sky a broad and tan canvas of almost nothing at all.

December shook with arctic cold. A foot of snow made people think we were in for one of those winters no one forgets. We were right. January was almost worse. Another foot. No blizzards, but deep arctic cold, and but one gorgeous day of January thaw. The snow today, late February, is a county-wide quilt. When I walked out on the sidewalk in the back on this dark, early Saturday morning, the night sky tingled with frozen jewelry. An hour later, my fingers are numb on the shutter.

But it hasn’t been the cold that made my pictures, this winter, seem derivative; it’s been those perfect, cloudless dawns. On misty mornings, the sun is a disk; this winter’s Saturdays, on the other hand, in a sky that seems always pre-lapsarian, the sun has been a blinding, massive ball of incandescence.

Our preacher’s on a roll with the Seven Deadly Sins, my all-time favorite little pious scheme because it’s so dead-on accurate. Last week the sin of choice was envy. That’s the sin I feel in my heart when, so often, marching to school or back again, I see a rainbow sky east or west. What I’m hoped for this Saturday morning was something with a little more action, a little more color, a little more drama. Didn't happen.

It just seems to me that even in a world of sin, things can be too blasted perfect. Honestly, there’s just plain more color in a morning sky that’s a touch mischievous, don’t you think?

Sometimes it’s okay—I think—to be thankful for things that are just a hair less than perfect.


Anyway, this morning I tried a place I hadn't been for several years, west bank of the Big Sioux, slightly north of Hudson, where I hiked up and down hills in calf-deep snow. Wasn't nearly as cold as it has been, but, after an hour or so, I was ready to warm up. Almost indistinguishable on this shot is a deer near the top of hill, just to the right of the two-lane path.

Didn't take long and that deer and a friend started down the path. I was too far away to see or smell, which, when I say it, is a fact I find strangely comforting.

But, as I already said, this morning's dawn was largely featureless again, which means I turn the camera towards light and shadow, hoping there's something memorable. I've already deleted a number of files, but this is little more than a study in light and shades of darkness--but strangely enough, rather beautiful, I think.

And then, finally, this, the shape of snow on the windblown prairie.

We haven't had a blizzard, really, this winter, but that doesn't mean that the fierce artificer isn't doing his work with the snow.

All in all, just another Saturday morning--warmer, too, than the last few weeks. And that may well be the greatest blessing of yet another perfect dawn.

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