It was cold. Really cold. Like single digit cold. Still, I was itchy to get out and photograph a sunrise. I was overdue for a weekend photo foray. Friday’s snow still clung to the trees, and it was sure to be a beautiful morning, even if the sunrise was muted. I bundled up and set out, heading south to a beach I rarely visit.

I arrived at the beach about 15 minutes before sunrise. A few rocks rose above the surf, drawing my eye. I watched the waves lift and swell around them. The interwoven patterns left on the sand by the receding tide picked up the early light, glowing. Small depressions of frozen salt water crackled with geometric shapes and crunched beneath my boots. The clouds clung low to the horizon, like a steel grey mountain range. Walking the shore, watching the colors shift in the sky, I felt myself relax into the rhythm of the morning.

As the day slowly lightened, I noticed wisps of sea smoke forming above the water. Even though my toes were going numb, I started grinning. Sea smoke is one of the most amazing gifts of winter. It forms when very cold air flows over relatively warmer seawater. Less dense than typical fog, it disperses easily with the slightest breeze. Today was calm enough and certainly cold enough. I prepared for the show. Sure enough, as the sun crept above the banks of clouds, I could see more and more sea smoke tendrilling above the water.

Then, as day broke, the air and waves gradually transformed to molten gold.

I stood, transfixed, for moment after moment after moment. Thankful. Reverent.

Experiences like this move me deeply. They ripple through me and lift me. I both lose and find myself, saturated in wonder.

After a long while, reality intruded. The deep growing ache in my fingers and toes sent me heading reluctantly back in the direction of the car. Even though I was hurting, I still struggled to pull myself away from the ever changing scene.

“Just one more picture,” I thought, again and again.

Eventually, I made it back to my car. The pain in my feet had become insistent at this point. I turned up the heat, blasting my boots with warmth, then drove along slowly, still lost in the glory of the morning.

Before too long, driving past a local land trust, I noticed the gleam and glow of snow and the silhouette of a favorite tree. Making a snap decision, I pulled into a convenient driveway, turned around, and headed back to the small parking lot.

“Molly, you are crazy,” I thought, as my toes throbbed in rebuke. “You’re going to permanently damage your feet.”

“It’s okay,” I reassured myself. “I’ll just take a photo or two.”

Parking quickly, I stepped out of the warm car into the freezing cold morning once again.

Walking through the snow, trying to get better lighting for my photo, I glanced down at the glimmering weeds and stopped in my tracks. What!? My mouth dropped. I crouched low to the ground, forgetting my aching toes for the moment. All along the snow, miniature forests of frost rose.

“Hoar frost!” I whispered.

It was as if I’d discovered a treasure chest of sparkling jewels. The moist air, combined with the bitter cold, had created an amazing winter wonderland. Everywhere I looked was enchantment. I moved giddily from branch to weed to berry, wondering at the intricate beauty all around me. Bedazzled and bewitched and beyond grateful. Again, I felt that lift. That buoyancy of spirit.

When I finally got back in the car, I was soaked through and my feet throbbed mercilessly. Still, I remained slightly stunned and totally awestruck. I kept thinking I might have missed all of this. I could have stayed home. I could have driven by. But I didn’t, and there was magic to be found.

Such mornings are the closest I come to euphoria.

33 thoughts on “Awestruck

  1. amyilene says:

    This is stunning! Your images and words captured the essence of this morning –this life– perfectly. I, too, am glad that you got out of the car, twice. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski says:

    Wow- these pictures and descriptions are really breath-taking! Thanks so much for sharing them here.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. humbleswede says:

    Thank you so much for this regifting. We’re all so lucky that you ventured out, then stopped, and then shared. The photos and your words are breathtaking. They help me imagine the actual.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am so glad I took time to read your slice and especially view your magnificient photography. Utterly stunning! A favorite phrase – single-digit cold. A favorite line: Small depressions of frozen salt water crackled with geometric shapes and crunched beneath my boots. Plus I learned about sea smoke and hoar frost. This slice read like a. lovely nonfiction picture book celebrating the wintertime sunrise. Thanks for sharing your talents of writing and photography here.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Tabatha says:

    Stunning! What a gift ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow! I want to go on a photo foray with you. That’s one of my yearly goals is to get out with the camera more like I did when I took courses in college — looking for different hues of the sky and fun things in nature. You know how to do just what I want to learn how to do. Take me with you!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dawn says:

    What an amazing description! I live in Australia and we donโ€™t have snow where I live, so it was really magical for me. Your perseverance really paid off. I loved your line โ€œ…I both lost myself and I found myself…โ€.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      We have had so little snow this year, but the day after I took these pictures, we got about 12 inches! I’m thankful for all the nuances of winter that come my way!


  8. maryleehahn says:

    This brings tears to my eyes!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. margaretsmn says:

    I am grateful that I could take the tour with you from the comfort of my kitchen. Such amazing photos! And your words take us with you as you experience awe and wonder. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Glenda Funk says:

    The photos are stunning, especially the golden sunrise, but the journey youโ€™ve given us w/ words is equally powerful, a beautiful reminder of natureโ€™s strength and healing. Maybe we should teach photography to all students. It forces us to look, and in looking we see what matters most.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Debbie Lynn says:

    Reading your story and looking at your gorgeous photos ‘moved me’. “I” am thankful you were there to witness nature’s beauty and share it with all of us. I cannot choose a favorite photo…that are all fantastic. Thank you for writing and sharing. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  12. dmsherriff says:

    Oh my word!! This is an incredible slice of words and photographs! Thank you, thank you, thank you for wanting get out in frigid cold for a sunrise. Thank you for enduring the cold and patiently watching the world before you wake up! Thank you for sharing your euphoric morning with us. Simply breathtaking!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. […] I do not live in a cold climate (In South Louisiana it’s cold when the temperature falls below 50.)and most of the time, that is fine with me. But I am fascinated and mesmerized by photos of snow. My friend and fellow Inkling Molly Hogan lives in Maine. She was telling us at our Zoom meeting about her experience photographing in single digit weather. She loves taking photographs of nature. She posted about this experience on her blog post on Tuesday. I “found” a haiku in her post along with an amazing photograph for today’s prompt. You should go to her post to see and read more: Nix the Comfort Zone. […]


  14. gailaldousmsncom says:

    Molly, your stunning photos and lyrical words are gifts. You have moved me, lifted me, and brought me joy. Thank you. Nature is so amazing and full of gifts. When I take photos of nature and my back, knees, or neck are hurting from the crazy positions I get in, or my fingers are freezing, I say to myself the same thing you do, “One more photo.” Your sunrise photo is glorious. Thank you for sharing your photos, your words, your inspiration, and your spirit.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Ramona says:

    I’m gathering words this month and your post is replete with delicious words (and photos too)! And then entire sentences I love: “I felt myself relax into the rhythm of the morning.” and “Everywhere I looked was enchantment.”
    I am so glad you kept hanging around for just “one more picture” and then shared with us – through your words and images.
    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. […] month’s #poetrypals challenge was a new form to me: the cascade poem. I was mesmerized by Molly Hogan’s Slice of Life post on Tuesday. She posted amazing photos of a beach in Maine at sunrise on a very cold morning. I […]


  17. Molly! This post is a work of art in words & images. How did your feet & fingers recover from your dedication to recording the awesome morning that Mother Earth gave you & with this, you gifted to us? My journey is enriched in reading for poetic lines & seeing this tingling beauty, to learn of both Sea Smoke & Hoar Frost! I love this lesson & will forever hold it close in memory.
    [from Florida ๐Ÿ™‚ ]

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Hi Jan! Luckily my feet have recovered, as have my fingers. I’m so glad you enjoyed my post. It was an enchanted morning and I couldn’t resist trying to capture and share some of it.


  18. Susan says:

    This so beautiful Molly–the photos and the description of your morning.

    Liked by 1 person

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