In a modern city in the U.S., the most quiet time is probably around 4:00 a.m. At that hour, even most of the night-lifers have gone home (bars having in many cities closed around 2:00); and the alarm clocks of most workers have not yet rung. Virtually the only sound is the faint background hum coming from an interstate or other highway.
But soon, -- even before the first hint of light in the sky -- come the first sounds of morning. Perhaps a car engine being started. Or maybe a truck making its early deliveries to a grocery store or cafe. If the windows of our homes are open, we might hear fainter sounds, such as a TV in another house being turned on to catch the morning weather and traffic report.
Even by 5:00 a.m., however, there still might not be any sounds from non-human life. Rarely anymore is there the crow of a rooster in any U.S. city or suburb. During the night, there might have been the twittering of a half-asleep pigeon. But most birds will wait until the first hint of daylight on the horizon before calling out to see if its companions are awake.
Because I am very nearsighted, even during the daytime I have a hard time identifying birds by sight when they are at a distance, especially when they are partly obscured by the foliage of trees. And so I especially enjoy the rich birdsong of morning. Even without being able to see the birds, I can recognize a number of species by sound, and be thankful that the birds I am familiar with in my neighborhood have made it safely through the night.
Besides being a time for awakening, daybreak is a time for healing. In the New Testament, Jesus on several occasions points to things in Nature as signs of the constancy of God’s love for the world. And, when providing an example of how we should love both our neighbors and our enemies alike, Jesus points not to some human being but to the sun -- saying that God “causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good.” (Matthew 5:45, NJB). Jesus thus evokes an an image of an expansiveness of love wrapping around the Earth to its farthest bounds.
"You, whose day it is,
make it beautiful.
Get out your rainbow colors,
so it will be beautiful."
Sunrise is thus a time for healing, forgiving, and awakening to the discovery of a new day.
Daybreak is thereby also a time for hoping. It is a time when we can wake from any troubled dreams of the previous night, when we struggled on a subconscious level with the tumult of the day before. Morning can be a time when we can be enlivened by our "dreams" in a different meaning of that word. The 20th-century poet Langston Hughes, a black man, readily knew tumult. But he encouraged his readers by writing:
"Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly."
Daybreak can be a time in which even birds can wake to a newly spirited day.
~ ~ ~
(Do you remember any particular occasions soon after sunrise that brought you a feeling of grace? When and where did that occur?)
(The Native American prayer is a traditional Nootka song to bring fair weather.
It is quoted in Every Part of this Earth is Sacred:
Native American Voices in Praise of Nature, edited by Jana Stone, © 1984.)
(The Langston Hughes quotation is from his poem "Dreams," from
The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, © 2002.)