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Early Rising

Catching sunrise was part of my childhood education. My father was cognizant with the proverb, “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” and he used it as a family mantra. Waking while the sky scintillated shades of saffron was imbued with every virtue imaginable. Naturally I resisted, certain that late night revels were better than dawn perambulations. I became a twilight worshipper, instead; enthralled with the descending incandescence, the kindling of scattered celestial bodies, the realization I was a speck of cosmic dust connected to an infinite universe of unknowable properties. At university I forsook the brusque chill of daybreak for the pleasures of nocturnal pursuits: midnight parties, two am snack runs, insomniac chats. Sometimes these sessions led to witnessing a new sun peeping over the horizon, but as a matter of accident not intent. 

My first premeditated sunrise occurred on a visit to Acadia National Park in Maine. Cadillac Mountain sits along the northern Atlantic as the peak to receive first light in the United States. From its summit the dotted harbor islands swell to silhouetted drops against a mauve mist. The lichen covered granite slope blushes at sight of the ascending sun. Watching the morning awaken upon this precipice was akin to being present at earth’s creation. It gave me a taste for dawn rising I never quite abandoned. Camping trips later cemented the glories of early mornings. Sleeping al fresco forces the body to shift into nature’s rhythm. The result is rewarding — tranquility without eldritch overtones. I wake to the twitter of winged greeters while the fragrance of bedewed leaves trembles in the air. Rustlings in the bush affirm that other creatures are busily starting their day. There is hope in a sunrise that cannot be found at sunset.

My travel life has accustomed me to the red-rimmed sun peeking over the horizon, bathing cities, shores, and mountain tops. Yet, the more dawns I experience the more I treasure them. I have come full circle waxing lyrical about the benefits of early rising, recommending its productivity benefits to sundry, quoting Aristotle and Ben Franklin aphorisms. My family would be proud.

Lately, watching an orange orb slip past the silver Pacific in southern California I admonished an intractable teenage companion. “The early bird catches the worm,” I said to her when she grumbled about getting up at an “unholy hour.” As the words were crisply spewing out of my mouth with the same smug inflection my father used when speaking the phrase, I realized early rising isn’t the only thing I have been emulating from my parents. The week before I cringed when I blurted out two of their pet expressions in conversation. I had sworn an oath in my youth to never utter “in my day,” and “you don’t mean that,” to anyone. Now I had put them into a sentence. I catch myself imitating many of their mannerisms, gestures I could not stand growing up: cracking knuckles while watching a movie, washing and saving resealable plastic bags for later use, retelling stale anecdotes. A nightmare I wished to evade has arrived — I have turned into my parents!

Genetically speaking, I suppose it was bound to happen. Culturally and philosophically, however, it was a shock. A large portion of my existence was avoiding anything they enjoyed while embracing the things they shunned, convincing myself I was nothing like them. Experience and life, of course, have changed my tune. Personal characteristics and my parents’ dispositions have mingled into a somewhat oddball glob. In the meantime, my youthful élan has given way to maturer apprehensions as surely as dawn accedes to dusk. These terrors, the same my parents had, are a waste of time. I know that as my younger self knew it, but I comprehend better why they exist, why my parents were burdened with them. In partially behaving like them, in becoming them, I understand my parents better too. They have altered from incomprehensible law-givers and flawed protectors into humans struggling to survive, to find joy, to inspire others.

I could mourn the inevitable, recoil at the profligacy with which their habits have overtaken my life. I could keep a sharp lookout for the next time I set my jaw like my father or pinch my nostrils in disgust like my mother. I can vow not to leave dirty napkins underneath the sofa. I can be certain I’ll never wear turtlenecks in the spring. I can laugh at their foibles, telling myself how odd and so not like me my progenitors are. Heredity will out, though. On the other hand, I could let it gloriously unfold. After all, getting up early to watch the sun is a privilege I am happy to have inherited. The extra hour of contemplation it provides, the way it uplifts the weary spirit — I know why my father enjoyed viewing sunrises, just as he predicted I would someday seek them out for myself.

I feared becoming more like my parents would obliterate my individuality. I was wrong. It roots the layers within me. It deepens the identity I forge. I will never be exactly them. I retain my credos, the right to my choices. But, their guiding mannerisms and practices comfortably creep in between like the first streaks of plum across the sleeping sky announcing sunrise. Pieces of heritage, for better or worse, which define my character. I have promised, however, not to say “rise and shine” to dusk lovers.


At particular moments it is possible to observe a green flash on the upper rim of the rising sun. This phenomena is caused by differing air temperature layers enhancing refraction of the sun’s light separation. Sunrises over sea level and in-flight are the most likely locations to track this mirage.

Have you noticed behaviors similar to those of your parents in you? Are they things you embrace or pet peeves?



132 replies »

  1. I have been observing with quietude, meditation, and sometimes photographing this two moments of the day: the dawn and its farewell to other places in the late afternoon. I am still learning its forms, its colors, its transformations, its movements, the climate, the moment and then I think about how much I have transformed myself over the years. These two moments have so much meaning for me: it is life / nature dialoguing with us. Your sensitive post reflects this with great intensity and delicacy. Thank you so much.

    • How sublimely you put into context the import of these “two moments of the day” and the ways in which they can transform us. I’m so honored that you found such beauty within my post and for contributing your lyrical contemplations upon the subject. Muito obrigado!

  2. It is not surprising that we ‘become’ our parents. One thing is for sure, the older I got, the more I understood my parents and forgave them all their ‘trespasses.’ 😉
    Mark Twain’s quote: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” Pretty much sums it up!

  3. And so I am even more glad for your comment on my own ‘early rising’ post for it brought me here! Thank you for this beautiful, stirring post, it brought back some strong memories, such as my own ‘accidental’ sunrises at university and other times and places when I just happened to wake with a sense that something magical and indescribably beautiful was painting itself outside the window. As a teenager I helped my dad work his market stall on weekends, we were there before sunrise, often in the freezing cold (newspaper stuffed inside our moon boots as insulation, somehow it worked), setting things up and one morning I used his SLR camera to photograph the sunrise. Somehow that pic got made into a set of drinks coasters, which my mum still has at her place somewhere (note to self: check with mum if she still has them). I never thought about it till now, but my dad must have seen that sunrise too. He was mostly stressed about how the day at the market would go, as business was mostly terrible towards the end, and he didn’t like to talk much, which made spending the whole day with him a bit tough going, but he must have seen that sunrise too.

    • Thank you so much for recounting your beautiful sunrise memory. Wonderful as they are on their own, catching a sunset or sunrise can so often be made more poignant by the events they recall or because of the people we shared the experience with at the time. “He must have seen that sunrise too,” and he must have also noticed how magical it was for you.

  4. Every image here is just magnificent! I am not a morning person so typically, the only time I see the sunrise is 1) when I am standing the 3:00 – 6:00 AM watch under sail 2) when I am in a location that has a must see sunrise photo opportunity that I drag myself to get up for (Angkor Wat).

    With regards to parents, I see both their good and bad in me. Luckily the good is far stronger than the bad…and I try to keep the bad in check. And one of the reasons I never had children is that I was afraid of giving birth to a child that was as much of a terror as I was to my parents in my early years…although my mother seems to be under the delusion that I was such a little angel (I was not).

    • It’s funny that you and your mother have such different remembrances of how you were as a child. At least it’s not the other way around where you believe you were an angel and your mother thinks otherwise! 😉

      As for early mornings…I hear you. Good thing my sunrise photos don’t show my incredibly grumpy attitude and face while I was taking them. 😀

  5. I absolutely revelled in reading your observations and understandings, in the way you led us from experiencing the dawn, to the insights into your parents and their beingness. I loved your beautiful prose, and the way you illustrated your story with such exquisite pictures… this post felt like a perfect little jewel, an example of how blogging can be an art form in itself.
    I felt so uplifted by the experience of reading this – and yes, I once saw the green flash, watching a sunset from a liner in the pacific – magic… I felt a sort of triumph at seeing that fabled moment !!!

    • Thank you so very much for your delightful comment. As your own posts are such an inspiration to me, combining various threads into a coherent whole, I am constantly striving to fashion mine into succinct thoughtful pieces.
      What a feast that must have been indeed, to see the green flash in the middle of the Pacific – I am envious.

  6. Since “retiring” I have the best of both worlds. I love starting the day early when it’s dark and quiet and nobody around. But I’ve always been my most creative at night. So I’ve solved that conundrum with a relaxing afternoon… making a nice big salad, taking a good nap, enjoying a cup of tea, perhaps a walk… then I’m refreshed and ready to go again! You can burn the candle at both ends… but not in the middle too! Great photos.

  7. Very fine photos! Early and late is great times for photographing, the light is so fine.
    For many years I used so much enrgy fighting and resisting everything my parents – mostly my father – stood for.
    Later we had more peace between us, I think it became more important for us to respect our disagreements – we never really agreed much more ….

    • Thanks for the compliment and for sharing your experience. It can seem impossible to relate when you have a different viewpoint than your parents. I am glad your father and you were able to “agree to disagree,” thereby respecting each other’s personalities.

    • I appreciate your kind words. It is a magical time, as I think is sunset. Your comment makes me wonder if there are more stories about dawn than dusk? It would be intriguing to find out….

  8. This is an utterly beautiful piece of writing. It inspires me to do as my parents always did too in rising early. Thus far, I have always been most productive by night but it makes me wonder what beauty I must be missing in the early hours.

    • 🙂 What a wonderful compliment, thank you. Try it and see what happens! I now enjoy the fact that I get to witness both sunsets and sunrises (though not consecutively)…each has its inherent wonder.

  9. These photos are really good! It makes me so happy to look at the sunset in the morning and watch the sunrise on a beach in the evening 🙂

  10. I am brand new here, but see so many familiar friendly faces (icons I suppose). It’s easy to understand why. You’ve likely received countless compliments on your immersive, precise prose and gorgeous images, so I’ll just add my “ditto” for now and say that it is a pleasure to be here.

    • Welcome! Thank you so much Gabe for the wonderful comment. I suppose it is a bit strange that in the billions of blogs out there, somehow we manage to discover fellow kindred spirits with whom we can share our varied experiences. It is also deeply marvelous. I look forward to reading about your travel thoughts.

  11. I love what you said about hope in a sunrise that cannot be found in a sunset. So true!

    Ah, your photos are gorgeous and refreshing. In each one, I can almost feel that crisp, early-morning air…

  12. Wow!! I am enchanted by the mesmerising pictures accompanied by brilliant prose and nostalgia playing hide and seek in this post! You have captured so many hues and moods of “rise and shine” together!
    Though I am a dusk lover and could never be attracted away from the warmth of bed whenever there was an opportunity to watch the glow of sunrise flitting across the horizon, I have never seen such a beautiful sunrise. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Being a dusk lover for a long time, I so understand. It’s still hard to let go of the “warmth of bed” to head out for sunrises, but I am glad when I do it. It’s such a blessing to be able to witness more and more of them. Thank you so much for your kind words!

  13. I admit, out of pure laziness, a preference for sunsets. Perhaps, living on the west coast, I’m more likely to find myself in a suitable place for a sunset than a sunrise. But more likely it’s just a lack of scouting and a disinclination to get up at an “unholy hour” for the possibility the light may be sublime.

    • Yes, the comforts of bed should not be underrated. Having long been a dusk lover I completely understand. I tend to catch most of my sunrises on my travels when jet lag and time differences help get me up before I’m ready!

  14. The older I get, the more I think about these kinds of comparisons as well. The behavior I really dislike about my parents, I manage to not repeat, but some things, I do not mind. I have seen green flashes at sunset over the ocean, but never at sunrise.

    While I hated getting up early when I was younger, I have experienced the benefits of it now, apart from liking to live and co-exit with Mother Nature, especially when sailing full-time. The days are longer, literally and figuratively speaking, when you get up early! I am much more productive and don’t even feel like watching TV or be a zombie at night. Instead, i just go to bed early and start all over again the next day. 🙂

    • There are wonderful things about being a night-owl as well, but I have noticed that when I am up earlier the day seems to contain more hours and I tend to be more productive too. Years ago I would never have imagined myself as an early riser, but here I am writing about its benefits. 😀 One of these days I would love to see a green flash…hasn’t happened for me yet.

  15. I, too, love the freshness and promise each new morning brings. Many of us have asserted never to turn into our parents, but, to a certain extent, we all do. I look at it as a way to honor them.

    • Someone else said the same thing to me and I thought how wonderful to look at it that way. Becoming like our parents does honor them doesn’t it and to a certain extent I feel that it helps us remember them too in a most intimate way.

  16. A beautiful reflection on where we come from. As you write, we get to understand our parents better as we get older – or at least see them in a broader perspective. And hopefully we learn from them, both their good and their bad. On different note, you have captured some wonderful pictures.

    • Thank you, I am thrilled by your compliment of my photos! As you mention, it is strange how as we age life takes on such a different perspective. It has more shades of grey to it than I ever thought possible when younger.

  17. Apart from everything else, the opportunity for astoundingly good photos! 🙂 🙂 I have to admit to catching snippets of Mam in my conversations. Hastily stuffed into an inside pocket. 🙂 I will never convince my husband though. He comes down the stairs grumbling if it’s anything before 8 o’clock, at any time of year.

  18. First of all, I can relate to the way you think of your parents and how you want to be different from them. But growing up makes me realize that I am who I am now because of the values my parents taught me when I was little. And some wise man says, “when you can’t beat them, join them.” 🙂 Secondly, about getting up so early, I have been a morning person. And the more I travel, the more I am grateful to be able to wake up so early naturally, because some places are best to explore in the morning when most people are still asleep.

    • “When you can’t beat them, join them.” 😀 I love it, what a way to look at our inevitable transformation into our parents! So agree with you about the morning being a great time to explore places. It so often gives destinations an atmosphere that gets lost later in the day.

  19. I’m particularly fond of that tobacco-sunburst combination so no surprise that this series just speaks to me. Beautiful. Interesting palette in the balloon shot. Just lovely!

  20. Terrific post. Amusing and poignant at the same time and very articulate! I am a dusk lover, but living here in Sri Lanka in nature, one cannot help but wake at dawn, the birds greet the day so loudly. And I have come to enjoy these early moments before a day really begins…

    Your last photograph is absolutely stunning!


  21. I’ve had a similar fear — all through my life. 🙂 I’ve slowly realised how much I have in common with my parents. My first impulse was to ‘resist’. Over the years, I’ve become more accepting and as you said, it strengthens our identity. 🙂

    • 🙂 When I first realized how much I was like them, it came as a shock. Did it for you? Now that I know I won’t be exactly like them, it has been easier to embrace the parts of them that are in me.

    • Thank you so much. Both dusk and dawn have their charms and I know I’m blessed to have seen plenty of both in various parts of the world. You must have witnessed some incredible ones in the desert?

      • They can be, ironically, very disappointing depending on the season. High summer especially. There needs to be just the right amount of dust (and other intricate atmospheric conditions, I assume) present for it to be spectacular. Some of the most beautiful ones I’ve encountered are still in Africa. 🙂

      • “Some of the most beautiful ones I’ve encountered are still in Africa.” I can imagine! Though I have not been to the deserts there, experiencing the landscape of South Africa made me realize there is something so unique about the continent…a feeling of stepping into the heart of our planet which I don’t get anywhere else.

  22. I, too, have evolved from a late night reveler to an early riser. I love your thoughts about the sunrise capturing hope. Yes, that’s it exactly. I thought about whether I emulate my parents in any way. The stuff I may have found irritating in younger days. The parenting I received was rather fluid, to say the least. I have grown into someone totally different, with their acceptance and blessing. And some of the inherited traits are actually fading with age. The only thing that has stuck around is my father’s dark sense of humor.

    • Intriguing, so you were more like your parents when you were younger? I wonder if that will happen to me too…sort of a bell curve of genetic tendencies. Your sense of humor is one of the incomparable things about you, so I am glad you inherited it from your father.

  23. Beautiful words to complement the photos. And a blog that took a lifetime to write … all those experiences with family and friends.
    Something that has stayed with me was flying from Darwin to Perth on Australia’s west coast with stops at places such as Broome and Port Headland – close to the western-most point on the continent.
    It was just on sunset and as the plane took off in a due west direction, the rate of ascent and the speed combined so the sun rose again over the Indian Ocean.
    I had not even thought of it before. It changed my perception of the world.
    Then the plane banked port and headed south and the sun set for a second time.

    • Wow, how surreal that must have been! It reminds me of science-fiction stories and emphasizes for me again how wondrous life on our planet is. Thank you for sharing such an incredible experience with me and I am so glad you enjoyed my post.

  24. Oh no, turning into the parents! 🙂

    Very nicely written piece. And they (you) have it right – sunrises ALWAYS the best time and now that we are living in Croatia I always swear that I’ll get up early with the sunrise. Unfortunately it’s something I’ve always had a hard time with being a habitual late riser (8 am ok, 5 am not so much…). Maybe one day? let’s hope because it IS really special.

    Frank (bbqboy)

  25. How did I ever sleep until noon and stayed up until 4? I am most productive early in the morning and love to get up before the sun rises, when the day is still full of promises. Lovely piece.

    • 🙂 Hard to remember how it was possible to survive on so little sleep too back then! I bow down in awe for early-risers, I am still getting used to doing it on a more regular basis.

  26. I see Albuquerque in the balloon shot, I believe and saying ‘rise and shine’ might be worthwhile just to see the recipient’s expression which might match the one you had years past when you heard it. 🙂

    I think we all have some things we do that mimic our parents.

    • “I see Albuquerque in the balloon shot” — yes! One of the most memorable sunrises I ever witnessed was at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival. So magical!

      “saying ‘rise and shine’ might be worthwhile just to see the recipient’s expression which might match the one you had years past when you heard it.” — 😀 That would only be sweet justice meted out to me for all those times I glowered at others for saying it.

  27. Beautiful photos 🤤I, too, am becoming my parents…. however, I have managed to raise two children to the ages of 17 and 12 without once ever spitting on a tissue to wipe their faces. A promise I made myself in childhood that I am so impressed I have kept 😉

  28. Being an early riser is a great thing. By rising early I’ve seen a peacock stroll through Holland Park as if it was the most normal thing to do, blue whales doing their thing in and out of the Indian ocean south of Sri Lanka, or simply have snapped the only chocolate and blueberry loaf of bread baked in the whole day at my local shop… You don’t get that by lying in bed and if that means turning into your old folks… so be it!

    Well done for not wearing turtlenecks… especially if they’re beige and are paired with a blazer!

  29. I have always been an early riser. Maybe not at the crack of dawn, but 8:00am at the latest. My mother is a morning person, too. But I must say, over the past few years, she has started sleeping in later and later. Makes me wonder if I will someday. I can’t even imagine it right now.

  30. Absolutely gorgeous photos. I do believe that sunrise and sunset are the perfect times of day, particularly for photos. Interesting isn’t it how one day we realize we’re just like our parents in so many ways! 😮😂

  31. What beautiful words to describe that moment of ‘adulting’ when we suddenly realise we’re more like our parents than we’d ever imagined! I love how you capture the transition from cringing at that reality to embracing it.

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