The cool grey light of 4 am seeps beneath bedroom curtains. No matter how I straighten them the night before – battening down the hatches, blocking out the light – by morning cracks have appeared and sunlight pierces the room, refracting into rainbows.
This morning I rise before the sun, before even the birds. Swimming through the soft silky silence of the morning, the light pulls shadows from my skin. Even if I weren’t still longing for sleep I would look haggard. The call of bed is strong but the tug of ritual stronger, so I slip from sheets, soft and crumpled and steal downstairs before I wake the dog.
Stillness is broken by the pulling on of clothes. Bra forgotten on the bedroom chair, I risk sneaking back up to find the dog startled by my upright presence. Confused, she jumps at bare legs in her excitement – early breakfast? A sneaky walk?
Scratches blossom on my skin and I shush her down the stairs. Her joy at seeing me, as if we didn’t spend much of the night listening to each other snore, is in equal parts endearing and annoying. I’d hoped to steal away unnoticed, greeting my gift with only myself to please.
She waits expectantly at the kitchen door. I finish dressing under her critical gaze, avoiding the glare of what she must see. The sag and swing of a body that has repeated this yearly ritual 30 times gone.
Trainers shuffled into, lead in hand, we slip the latch on the back gate and head, free, for the hills.
Some years this day has been meticulously planned. Travelling to favourite spots or camping out the night before. One year a party of strangers appeared around my tent and I, less than graceful, hollered that they could all shut up and bugger off. Other years I’ve been alone, well except for the dog.
Even when I’ve known the clouds would be low, the ritual of it all pulled me from my dreams and demanded at least a cup of tea on the doorstep of a damp drenched garden.
Some years the sheer beauty of the landscape blinded me. The light, so memorable, sat behind my eyes, imprinted like a photo. The smokiness of the hills, the iridescence of the golden dawn light as birds rose, ignoring my intrusion into their early morning world.
This year, still struggling to regain the essence of myself, I steal up the hill behind my house skirted by factories on one side, the school and houses laid out on another. This is more my kind of magic anyway. The ordinary, the banal, the places where people do all their living and dreaming and dying.
I sit here, amongst sleeping daisies, eyes turned towards the east, the crows caw a rough serenade and I offer up my prayers, accept my blessings. Giving thanks for the sunrise and its presence in my day, a man on a bike squeaks by.
Fires will be lit and late-night whispers will pass into flames. Today we honour all that is light, all that is lush and plenty and growing. Too soon, we will welcome the soft embrace of gently lengthening shadows into our life.
All is in balance, our hearts beats following the spiral dance.