It has been too long since I rose to greet the dawn.
It began while living in England, my ritual of stepping outside to engage in a silent, brief meditation in the early morning light. A conscious communion with the fleeting moment that is no longer night but not yet day, a time of opposites balanced as one. For several years, whether living in the green English countryside, or amid the sunny olive groves of Andalucía on the Mediterranean, or ‘upcountry’ on the eucalyptus-draped mountainside of Haleakalā on Maui, I embraced the dawn.
No matter the season, several days a week—whenever I rose early enough to do so—I stepped outside our front door and walked into the soft, pastel light to stand and listen. Breathe. Stretch. Bundled up in England, often naked in Spain and Maui, I offered prayers of gratitude and listened to the soft sounds of wind in the trees or the dawn chorus, each thing celebrating and echoing the Song of the World. A moment when everything is awake. Holy.
It was a beautiful, soul nourishing ritual for me, the perfect way to begin any day. Dawn, as with dusk, is an aperture to the soul and an invocation of spirit. Being outside in the early morning offered a centering, grounding pause before the day’s details swept me away in the demands, details and occasional challenges of daily living. It granted a chance to remember my secret name—the one that only the wind knows—and the dreamworld that enfolds me in haunting images and soulful riddles. Who was I before I awoke to the dawn?
It’s a ritual that I miss.
I’ve just returned from a few days on Kaua‛i, visiting that lovely isle with my partner (along with a friend from England and her new mate). As we usually do when on the Garden Isle, we stayed in the charming guest cottage—the Ti House—of our dear friends on the North Shore, who are ever the gracious hosts. Tucked down at the bottom of their magical, terraced garden and overlooking the Anini Stream, it’s the perfect, rustic hideaway and retreat for the soul. (I filmed a recent introductory video for my website there.)
Whenever I am fortunate enough to stay in the charming little Ti House, listening to the soft sounds of tropical rain on the roof and the singing voice of the stream below, I sleep as I once used to—contentedly and deep, as if resting in the arms of the Earth Mother, herself.
The moon was full during our visit, her incandescent light illuminating the night with soft, silvery energy that added to the magic of that emerald, tropic isle. On the final morning of our stay, I woke in the predawn hours—a semi-brightness of cascading moonlight accompanied by the sounds of palm fronds swaying clackity clack in the breeze—and could not return to sleep.
Go out and greet the dawn, said a small, familiar voice in my head.
I lay there for a few minutes, feeling too comfortable to get up. Finally, I tossed back the light blanket and emerged from the canopy of mosquito netting that drapes the bed. Quietly so as to not wake my partner, I pulled on some shorts, opened the screen door, and stepped outside into the wet grass. Inhaling deeply, I wriggled my toes down into the thick, green carpet and raised my hands to the heavens in a gentle, welcome stretch.
To the east, the bright morning star of Venus hovered like a glistening diamond above the silhouetted palm trees; in the west, the moon still floated like a luminous pearl. The sky is adorned with jewels, I mused, and everywhere—in every breath—is my Beloved, waiting for me.
A soft breeze dancing on my exposed skin, I surrendered to some gentle movement to waken and enliven my body still tight from sleeping. Around me the garden began to rouse to the morning, as well. As the crickets’ timeless symphony faded, a concerto of cooing mourning doves, twittering little birds, and brassy mynahs began their daily ensemble. Feral chickens on the adjacent property clucked and crowed their comments, accompanied by the song of the stream and a susurration of wind in the gently swaying tree branches.
Everything is awake. Holy.
Barefoot, I wander up the zigzagging paths of the wet garden terraces to the main house, the warm air heady with scents of ylang ylang, plumeria, and ripening fruit. I will have a breakfast smoothie and then roam the property further or go for a morning walk up the road, though it’s only five-thirty in the morning.
Crossing the wet lawn, I notice the sound of honeybees in the palm trees above me. I stop a few times to observe the industrious golden workers already busily at work on the long spikes of creamy palm flowers. Several colonies of bees are kept on the neighboring property—a botanical garden—and ‘the girls’, as I call them, are everywhere on our friends’ flowering trees and shrubs. Having sadly relinquished my own hive of honeybees in the move to suburban O’ahu, it fills me with a deep joy—and sad longing—to be around these remarkable winged alchemists of nature. I miss them dearly, and always stop to observe and talk to them whenever I encounter a bee on my walks (or anywhere). Hola, preciosa, I say.
The loud, excited hum of a large number of bees draws me across the garden to investigate. Not far from the house, the yellow flowers of a very unusual, scented palm (which no one, including experts, seems able to identify) have lured a surprising number of honeybees. By their actions, communication, and numbers, they are clearly excited by these particular flowers. I stand next to them for a few minutes, observing, relishing their sonic conversation and the resonance it creates in my own body. Bonjour, mes petites, I smile, thank you for being an inspiration in my day.
New walking sandals strapped to my feet, I leave the Cohen’s property and head up the paved country road. The sun has not yet risen but the sky is colored a pastel, violet blue and strewn artfully with fluffy clouds, while the pearl of moon has now slipped from view. My senses wide open to the beauty that surrounds me, I stroll the empty road, gazing up at Kauai’s jagged green mountains that rise like a dragon’s spine, cross-stitched now and again by white cattle egrets flying through the morning on snowy wings. Each downbeat of their wingstroke ripples a subtle sensation in my body. Everywhere the air is alive with birdsong and the soft hum of bees.
Wherever my eyes turn, I am enfolded in a dramatic beauty that flings wide the shutters of the heart. In the early light, the world feels fresh and new, while something glimmers at the edges of my peripheral vision that I cannot quite catch but know well; I’ve encountered it many times before, a sense of subtle magic when the veil between dimensions hangs thin. There is a world behind the world that most of us never encounter in our waking hours, and I sense that I am on its glimmering threshold. The oxygen itself feels rich and heavy with possibility, as if I have been swallowed whole into Nature’s living, breathing incantation.
Beauty feeds the soul but it is nearly absent from our modern world, and our lives are cheapened and degraded by its absence. Walking amid such natural beauty with my senses and heart ajar brings my soul alive in a way I’ve not felt since my last visit to Kaua‛i. It’s like coming home to myself, and I note the upwelling of gratitude and joy in my core—a bubbling fountain that fills my entire being and lightens my step.
Living as I do now in the suburbs, I’m anything but inspired to wake early and step outside to greet the morning. I no longer live surrounded by semi-wild beauty. Stepping out the door, I simply face the street and a row of houses. While I could walk out to the sidewalk, descend the steps, and go down around the lower apartment to the terraces below the house to stand beneath the mango trees, I’m just not inclined to do so. Yet on this morning I’m reminded of how powerful it is to greet the dawn in a conscious, meaningful manner—the way it wakens and inspires the soul, standing barefoot on the earth with senses open wide to the Soul of the World. Even in a neighborhood.
When I’m outside in the painted hour of dawn or dusk, standing quietly, it seems that every part of Creation is singing… except us. We’re zooming along in cars, watching television, browsing the Internet, enmeshed in our petty dramas and work, totally disconnected from Nature, and busily destroying the world in a mad cacophony of noise.
We can actually hear the Song of the World in moments of silence and peace—yet so few of us ever know either one. My wish for humanity is that we could all know peace. If we could tend it within, perhaps we could move closer to spreading it among neighbors and nations and the ‘other-than-human’ world.
In the chaos and hurriedness of our lives, peace is elusive and rare. Money doesn’t buy it. Health doesn’t provide it. Even in the most tranquil and beautiful of settings, surrounded by nature, many of us never know peace because our minds and mouths are racing, sending and receiving messages, conversations, texts and emails and interruptions. In our modern illusion of being seamlessly connected through technology, we are utterly disconnected and discombobulated, divided within ourselves.
Soul Artists know that it is not a paradox that we may always have troubles but we can still know peace. Like the gentle, timid bird whose presence we attract by sitting quietly and allowing it to come near, peace is a choice. An invitation. As with so much of nourishment, it is cultivated in thought and action, through widening the senses and unlocking the heart.
For this man, greeting the dawn is a simple practice that generates peace. I hear the Song of the World and remember that I am an essential note in its interwoven melodies. I know too that Grace unfolds in unlooked for ways. When I begin the day in sensory communion and gratitude, I find my soul in harmony; I align with flow and ease. Even if it’s only briefly, I am expansive and inspired.
On this Kaua‛i morning, I’m deeply grateful to be alive and savoring such a beautiful place where I feel in total harmony. My soul has been fed and nourished deeply by the sanctuary of our friends’ home and the stunning, tranquil beauty of this island gem.
Back in our cookie-cutter neighborhood on O’ahu, perhaps you’ll find me at dawn under the mango tree on the lower terrace, after all… stepping out into the early morning to greet the Holy, hoping to carry it with me in some small way through the day, and sharing whatever grace I have found.