When I write first thing in the morning, I allow my mind to drift from thought to thought. My pen flows with the wisps of dreams, follows half-remembered images or feelings, or reaches back to recent events. Whatever moves me to write. I want to capture and distill strong emotions, interesting connections, experiences, new thoughts, etc. I can be surprised by where these journeys lead me.
When I go out to take pictures, I usually have at least the location in mind, which dictates some of what I’ll see. Ocean versus marsh versus river. Forests or fields. Still, there are surprises here, too. I never know what will capture my attention at that particular time. Will the fog call to me, or shadows or spider webs? Will interesting patterns emerge in sand, water or sky? Sometimes I go with a goal in mind, usually to find certain birds, like a snowy owl or migrating warblers. Then I keep my eyes to the rooflines or treetops, depending. Still, I’m always intrigued by what other images tug at my lens.
On Saturday I woke early and decided to set out early to catch the sunrise at the marsh. The marsh is one of my favorite places in the world. I always leave feeling more at peace than when I arrived. On this morning, I arrived shortly before sunrise and followed the flow of the unfolding scenery, breathing in the damp, swampy tang of marsh that filled the air.
First dawn arrived in gentle hues, painting sky and water and clouds into a sunrise composition.
Dewdrops clustered, strung on the architecture of a stalky weed, capturing miniature sunrises in their globes.
The marsh waved its colors like a rippled quilt of golds, greens and browns. The grasses undulated like water, and I stopped to try to capture the hue and the sense of motion. It reminded me of lines from “In the Salt Marsh” by Nancy Willard. I couldn’t remember them then, but looked them up later:
“How faithfully grass holds the shape of the sea it loves,
how it molds itself to the waves, how the dried salt
peaks into cowlicks the combed mane of the marsh.”
Queen Anne’s lace lined the path, in all stages, from newly opening to a tight cluster poised to disperse seeds to wind and water. Each blossom a world to explore–gathering sunlight or crystalline dewdrops or filagrees of delicately spangled spiderwebs.
The birds put on a show as well. Snowy and great egrets rose and fell out beyond the still pannes, a cormorant fished and preened, a seagull and his reflection gazed out with a bold eye, and a great blue heron rested, silhouetted against the great variegated green of the marsh.
Further along, goldfinch flashed their bright feathers amidst the flowers, following the edges of the path from blossom to blossom, stopping to forage then flitting away.
As I ended my walk, another image pulled me in– the reflected symmetry of rock and still water.
Mornings like this will be more precious soon, limited to weekends and holidays. As I head into the rigors of the school calendar and its relentless pace, I am gathering up moments of serenity. As I left the marsh, my mind tumbled back through all the images, holding each one in my thoughts. Lingering in the light, the color, the movement. Gathering up each moment. Gathering calm.