One morning I logged onto a webcam about 20 minutes before the local dawn. This Webcam is in a semi-rural area, where there is artificial light but not like in the city, so the field of view was dark gray. I left the window open and returned to it five minutes later. It was still grey and amorphous, but now I could see the movement of a train — not the train itself, no details, just the movement.
I forgot about it for a while, then came back to it a moment or two after sunrise. It was an overcast day there, but in only 20 minutes all had become brightly lit, with sharp details. It was night and day, literally and figuratively.
Only a few days before, I had been observing the area through the same webcam an hour before sunset. In what seemed like no time at all, the view, which had been glaring with sunset, became impenetrably dark.
In both cases, there was a great sense of change, of something remarkable having happened. Yet it occurs every day, twice a day, night transformed into day, day into night. It is so regular that we take it for granted. It is so extraordinary that the experience is both amazing and moving.
Those who miss it because they are asleep, at work, online, watching television, or otherwise occupied, miss one of the few natural opportunities left to the urban/suburban dweller — the rhythm of the planet, the solar system, the stars, the galaxy, the universe. No matter how tedious our lives become, how smothered by the mundane and the senseless, even the hopeless, there is always the wonder of the sunrise, slowly waking the diurnal world, and the sunset, slowly waking the nocturnal one. Even if we cannot change everything that troubles us, whether it is work, family, spouse, money, or the simple boredom of everyday life, the sunrise and the sunset remind us that there is beauty in change and that we can experience the wonder of that beauty every day if we choose.
When Scarlett O’Hara says, “Tomorrow is another day” in Gone with the Wind, she’s refusing to give in or give up. I don’t have that indomitable spirit of optimism, of belief that tomorrow will be better or even that it could be better. I no longer have faith that it will hold opportunities that were not available today. That has not been my experience, and my spirit has lost its elasticity, its ability to bounce back and to shake its fist at the world.
But tomorrow is another day — another day with the mystical transformations of light, transformations that prove that change is not only possible, but that it is inevitable. And beautiful. And that makes me ache for it even more.
I will be up before dawn tomorrow.