Dawn Patrol

“To live is to be slowly born” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

My current hometown of Portland ME is not really that far north, it just feels that way. Although it sits at 44ish deg N latitude (roughly halfway between the equator and the North Pole) after living most of my adult life in the sunplashed 32ish deg  N latitudes of southern California the signs of the change in seasons up here have been sharpened. For one, I’ve become much more aware of the shifting length of day.

This time of year the eastern sky begins to blush with dawn around 3:45AM. By 4:30Am (civil twilight) it’s almost fully light outside. At 5AM I can’t stand stand the singing of the birds any longer and jump out of bed to go ride my bike on the local trails. Fortunately for anyone within earshot, I let the tread of my tires do my singing.

The holy water of a soft, welcome shower blessed my trails last night so there’s hero dirt to found between the slippery roots this morning. Unlike the miserable, dreary rains of Fall and Winter it had been a soothing rain, and after a relatively dry winter a much needed rain. The earth exhales with mist as I alternate between slide and traction, yin and yang.

The birds pay no heed to my passing in these cathedral woods. I’m just a fleeting part of the scenery to them I think. Chickadees, cardinals, blue jays and many birds that I can’t quite place by ear sing their notes in the chorus assembled on this small parcel of relatively untouched coastal woodlands. A whitetail deer bounds silently across the edge of a meadow like a cloud across the sky and the forest is complete – dynamic and alive.

This morning I am drawn toward the coast and the rising sun via a somewhat technical trail, a path whose difficulty is made even more so by the sleep that dulls my reflexes a bit. That’s what I tell myself when I misjudge a corner and bang a tree with my elbow: it’s not my reflexes slowing with age, I’m just tired. A cup of coffee would’ve cured that. Yup, I’d be fine after my morning coffee kicks in. Yessirreee.

I hit the final stretch of singletrack that leads to the shore and hop the massive root that protrudes like a finger of death from the big pine atop the crest of the hill. The beating of the surf upon the stubborn rocks of shore ebbs and flows like the tide itself as the dense, moisture laden salt air fills my lungs. Breaking out onto the rocky cove with a delighted squeal from my brakes I come to a stop upon the stones. I bend over my handlebars to rest and watch the surf rise and fall.

I know this path dead-ends upon the shore yet I take it every time.

Perhaps because it’s my first true Spring in many years or maybe it’s the realization that within a month the days will begin to grow shorter again, but I can’t escape the need to try and hold on to this fleeting moment. I close my eyes to cherish the warmth of the sun upon my face. Time to head home and have that morning coffee.


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