I wake to a scintillating frozen dawn along the Oregon coast. I see ice crystals out my window, as first light accumulates. I have professional reasons for coastal travel, yet I also have a deeper responsibility than work: simply to notice and cherish the day.
I marvel at how much beauty we can experience just by rising a little earlier, or staying a little later, or filling in beauty in the cracks of a busy schedule. Time to notice and cherish the day’s beauty is like water that fills in around a “full” jar of legumes. There’s more room for it than it first seems—especially since presence doesn’t take time at all. It’s within time we already have.
I also marvel at how easily we can capture and keep that beauty, via miraculous cameras that fit in our pockets. Almost all of us own such a miracle. The anachronistic word “phone” doesn’t aptly describe our pocket computers’ vast capabilities.
Yet our phones have drawbacks as well as brilliance. For one, news has become aggressive, not only in content, but in methods of delivery. It’s always in my pocket too. If I’m not careful when I raise my camera to capture the astonishing sunrise, I’ll be blindsided instead by the latest headlines of fear and disaster.
I consider it my civic duty to be informed. Yet to maintain balance, it’s essential to remember the world’s beauty as well as its brutal realities. So I let the shoreline center this precious day. Within that focus, I remember who I am, and who we are together.
Dawn light is as subtle as a slowly developing love. It begins beyond notice, then blossoms beyond expectation. As with love, the reflections are more beautiful than the original at times: the dawn above wet sand means there are two skies, two shorelines, merging into one. And yes, isn’t that exactly what love is?
Almost no one is here yet but me, for a sunrise chilly enough to surprise me with ice on the beach. I’ve never seen beach ice before. I’ve never seen a rainbow form over the ocean at dawn either, in cold crystals of fog above the sea. Yet that’s why I’m here. I got out of bed before first light not because I knew magic would happen, but because I knew it was possible. Possibility is plenty.
Off in the distance a dog appears, happily chasing birds it will never catch. Dogs on beaches may be the purest expressions of joy I’ve ever seen. They remind me that presence doesn’t have to be human, to be pure and full.
Next I notice patterns of sea foam, drifting across the beach in the bitter morning breezes. They take the shapes of amoebas, or fish, or children’s imaginative visions of cloud shapes. I’m entranced, and my childlike wonder returns. It was only dormant, not lost.
When I look even closer, another miracle appears—as often happens given true presence. I notice the wild colors in the bubbles of the sea foam. Each one is prismatic, kinetic, reflecting and refracting colors I can’t see in the sky. Each is an elegant distant cousin of the dawn rainbow. I fall into them as my sense of scale disappears. The ocean is beyond measure.
Still, I have to be careful along the edge of the waves. Waves don’t discriminate with their erratic swells and falls, their grasping reach along the beach. Their fingers have more sensitivity than ours. They’re less encumbered by distracted mind. So I often have to scramble to stay dry, when my own mind has distracted me from the shifting edge of the shoreline. I can often hear an approaching wave before I see it, when my vision is focused through a lens.
It’s never silent along the seashore. Wave noise has been ceaselessly present for eons. Even the concept overwhelms me. Yet the noise drowns the sound of the rest of the loud world. Silence and peace are not equivalent. I marvel again at the waves’ persistence, pursuing their purpose for four billion years. We’ll never be that persistent. And yet the ocean is not tired.
I’m not tired either, despite long work hours the previous day, and more to come. With each glance of full presence, I’m newly inspired by the beauty, in a way that gives me strength and compassion I can carry into my day. I’m reminded that the beauty we bring into challenge, transforms challenge. That the world is not merely an external place. It also happens within. We must remember this, to know who we are well enough to bring out the best in each other.
Human harmonies are illustrated by a couple now approaching on the beach, in front of the dawn rainbow. Their footsteps fall into synchronized rhythms. They merge with each other, with sand, sea and sky, becoming a part of the beauty in a way that will inform their own day. To witness this beauty is a sacred central task.
So I prepare for my day’s other tasks by continuing to witness. I see how birds foraging at the sea edge becomes a dance. I admire seagulls for their silent soaring, never complaining of the chill. I watch as a lone surfer dares to join the waves, freed by his daring (and his warm wetsuit) to ride whichever waves he chooses. I see beach sand beautifully braided like hair, by the caressing hands of the incoming creek. I see how the wind has used a long blade of seashore grass attached to a log to draw a perfect half-circle in the sand, as accurate as any compass. The beauty is as ceaseless as the waves.
I feel a compelling urge to slow the moment down—not just to feel the sunrise now, but to integrate it more fully so I can be better at what I do next. The edges of the day are often where I find my true center.
Yes, we find ourselves by looking beyond ourselves into nature, because nature is not just where we come from. Nature is who we are. We’re a beautiful part of the sunrise too. I recall that as morning light blooms into full brilliance; as the light reflected within me becomes kindness and inspiration that will inform my day. Others may not notice that they’re seeing the sunrise within me, but it will touch them nonetheless. Touching each other with the light of grace is as vital as the work of the waves. That’s the shoreline headline I read in today’s sea.