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.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sunday Morning Meds--The Sun

“For the LORD God is a sun. . .” Psalm 84:11

It’s difficult, at least for me, to think of the sun as an inanimate object—like a stone or brick. It gives us life, after all. Without the sun, there’d be no energy to run this desktop, no warmth in which to breath, no light with which to see. Without the sun, we wouldn’t be here. “Let there be light,” God said so many years ago no one remembers, and suddenly a new world was animated.

One of the most pleasing landscapes I took this year is a picture no one else would find lovely, I’m sure. I was out on some public land just south of a county park. It was mid-April and my fingers were stiff with cold. I’d been trying to frame a bush on a landscape shot that just wasn’t working, in part because the sky—which can be so bold here—was, that morning, wispy and pale. There wasn’t much to shoot against.

Dawn was behind me by a half hour, so I quit and started walking back to the car by way of a rutted lane between a stand of poplars, a non-descript country path occasionally traveled by deer hunters, I’d guess. Otherwise, as far as I could see in any direction, there was nothing but open land. The sun was rising gently, already flattening shadows. The air was moist.

That stand of trees was the closest thing you’ll find to a woods on the open plains, probably an old homestead. But trees take a beating out here. They’re not at all native. Farmers still plant them for windbreaks; but soon enough it seems deciduous trees, like most of us, soon start looking as if they’ve battled too many incessant prairie seasons.

Try to imagine a little lane through trees littered with dead branches, some broken off, splayed over the road, others hanging precariously by a thrusting stump of twisted wood, as they had been—some of them—for years. Many are bleached and gray.

The floor is brush, last year’s mantle of brome grass, plus whatever else held its shape through winter. If my beard gets too long, it looks like what I was walking on—a scroungy, colorless mess.

I was walking east, into the sun, when I noticed the haze of emerald from what probably were, not a week before, jagged, skeletal branches. The morning light caught those tiny poplar leaves just right and turned them into a glittering song. And then I looked down, and there beneath the old whiskery brome grass, nothing less than jade was emerging from the dusky land.

If you sat and watched that old road all year, I suppose you could pinpoint the exact moment that spring came to the grove. I swear I had to be close.

And it’s all the sun, its warmth penetrating the earth, igniting chemical equations.

I took some pictures. What you see is no gaudy dawn, no out of this world landscape, no fiery sky. What you see is a shoddy old path through a stand of trees barely capable of holding its own through another gusty spring.

But spring it was, and the whole place was being transformed.

If photography is an art whose materials are time and light, then I swear I caught a masterpiece right there on a dingy landscape in the middle of nowhere. With the morning sun in my face, I told myself that all things were starting anew, one more time.

“For the Lord God is a sun,” the psalmist says, and a whole lot more.

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