By Hazel <email@example.com>
Submitted: March 2005
Summary: An introspective glimpse into the patterns of Martha's and Jonathan's lives.
As long as I can remember, he's risen before the sun.
Part of it, of course, is the natural rhythms of a farm. Mucking out the animals, milking the cows, filling the grain bins… These tasks haven't changed all that much over the millennia, even if tools have simplified things. They still demand a stolid kind of patience. Patience, and care, and affection for the large, smelly brutes that require so much of your time and dedication. He's always had that in spades.
So, yes, he's out there out of necessity, doing what must be done to keep the place moving smoothly. But there have been many times when we've been elsewhere, in settings where dawn passes largely unheeded. Even then, he still rises in time to witness the sunrise, coming back to bed when the sky has shaded to placid blue. It's not just the demands of his vocation. He has that need to watch the sun come up.
I've been outside with him often enough, especially in the early days, to see how he nearly always stops his farm work to simply watch. There's that glorious moment when the sun tugs free of the horizon to pulsate against the streaked colors of the morning. He'll turn his face towards that warmth, eyes half-closed against the glare, and stand there for a handful of instants. Then, benediction received, he'll quietly return to his mundane tasks.
Rainy days with no sunrise to witness? There's still the lightening of the sky from dark to murky gray. Even that, it seems to me, is enough to make him pause for just a moment before returning to work. As for those times when we're away from the farm, and there's no real reason for him to rise at all? Somehow, he always seems to need to get up for a drink of water just around the time the sun is rising, hidden behind the clouds.
Now, me… I've always had a thing for sunsets, not sunrises. Nightfall advances and retreats as the seasons turn, so the timing is always a little different. Sometimes I'll nudge a bubbling pot away from the fire; at other times, I'll turn away from the splash and clatter of washing dishes. But no matter what I'm doing, I'll set it aside for long enough to step towards the window – or onto the porch, in warmer weather – and experience my own moment of communion with the sun as it gives its final curtsey at the edge of the world.
I suffer the same problem he does, of course, when the sky is clouded over. Like him, on those days when there isn't anything to actually see, I'll still take a moment or two to stop and consider. It's a habit of years that can't be broken just because the weather won't cooperate.
He knows how I feel about sunsets, just as I know how much the sunrise matters to him. There have been occasions when I've lost track of time – researching a project, perhaps, or working in the windowless studio in the back of the house – and he'll come and lean against the doorjamb, waiting for me to pause and glance up at him before he'll quietly remind me, "Sun is going down." And I'll lay down my tools or papers, and smile at him in thanks, and take his hand as we walk towards the westernmost window to watch the sky glimmer from pale blue into deeper twilight.
Those sunrise and sunset moments aren't for solemn thinking or deep philosophy. They're for standing still and letting the beauty of the world wash over us, for pausing in the everyday tasks of our lives and enjoying the glory that mostly passes unnoticed. Days flit by quickly enough, turning into months and years before we realize what's happening. It's nice to steal a moment, whether it's at dawn or dusk, to simply be.
What did it say about him, that he looked towards the rising of the sun? What truths about myself were revealed by my affection for the closing of the day? There have been odd moments, over the years, when I've stopped and considered that question – although never during the actual sunrises and sunsets that we both cherish. Why does he love sunrise so much, and why am I so moved by the sunset?
It would be a little too easy to suggest a subconscious Freudian longing for a fresh start on his part, or a reluctance to let go of the past on mine. But that's lazy thinking, and too cheap to be real. I know him too well to think he regrets his past, and I hope I know myself well enough to be aware that I'm looking forward to the future.
No, I think I'll set the philosophical analyses aside. Why look to the subconscious, when the plain truth is right out there in the open? Simple answers have a beauty of their own, a stark unpretentiousness so like our quiet lives. He's happy to greet another morning; I'm pleased that another day has ended well. And with each subsequent sunrise and sunset, working in tandem, we take another step together on our journey through life.
Sunrise, sunset, the serene blueness of the sky at day and the scattering of the stars at night… Perhaps in that time before one such star came down to bless us with the greatest gift of our lives, sunrise and sunset meant something different, something wistful and unhappy. It's been nearly thirty years, after all, and it's hard to psychoanalyze across the decades.
Now, though? The coming and ending of day signal a few more precious hours that I've been privileged to spend with the most wonderful man on earth.
I glance at my watch, squinting in the weak predawn light, and peer at the empty space beside me. He's been in the barn for over half an hour now. It looks like I woke up just in time. I think I'll grab my robe and join him outside, so we can watch the sun come up together.