A man sits in the window, bundled in a light grey jacket and a blue French scarf wrapped around his neck. By the light of the lone candle that flickers near him on the table, his unruly and uncombed hair shines silver, though his face is that of a middle-aged man. He writes with fountain pen and notebook, a cup of tea sitting on a saucer beside him, growing tepid as it listens to the scratching of gold nib upon paper. The morning is not yet light but he is awake, writing, long before the dawn.
Summoned from dreams by a strange call in the darkness, he rises, disoriented at first. Naked in the dark womb of the cottage, he stands at the bifurcated door with its upper panes of old glass, gazing out at the moonlit waters of the cove and the trees outlined as shadow beings. Listening. No fog or mist lingers about the cottage eaves, the world is only a dark crystal into which to skry.
Opening the door, he steps onto the cool stones of the small covered porch. Still nude in the cool air that brings his whole body alive and tingling, the murmuring low voice of the rolling sea greets him with its briny breath, mingled with a fragrant scent of resinous, vaguely lemony cypress trees. But for the timeless chant of ocean, a deep quietude and stillness holds all in a realm of glimmering shadows and thin moonlight.
The man retreats into the relative warmth of the cottage. He is tempted to return to the cozy comfort of his bed but realizes that, once again, he has been curiously invited to greet this morning in the briefly numinous moment when two worlds touch. Reluctantly, he pulls on clothes from the chair near his bed, neatly placed there the night before when he undressed for sleep. Clad more warmly, he steps again outdoors in the moonlight and walks slowly with bare feet down to the circle of trees at the edge of the southerly cove.
The Circle of Dancers. Seven windswept Monterey cypress trees who gracefully root down into earth and stone, and rise up in timeless, evergreen song. Behind him, the warm glow of the candle in the window illuminates the cottage, a small beacon against the surrounding darkness. The man steps into the deeply shadowed enclave as if it were a druid’s grove, a place humming with power, secrets, and an ancient wordless song. Gathered round with rugged arms entwined, the trees are silhouetted against the dark liquid silver of the sea.
Welcome, earth son.
His eyes scan the surrounding shadows, senses wide, feeling and listening. Mountain lions are not uncommon here, and the hours of dawn and dusk are hunting ones. There is little real danger; for a great cat, there is an abundance of far easier prey than an adult human. He shrugs away the tickle of fear and his projections, and raises his arms to the canopy overhead woven of lacy charcoal mesh.
“If it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go,” he says silently. “For now, I celebrate the moment, the coming dawn, and the mystery of you that is everywhere.”
He speaks aloud to the darkly liminal forms that surround, offering one of the poems that he carries in his heart, a way to greet the morning though the eastern sky is not yet light. The golden chariot of day remains some ways off yet, chasing the alluring moon.
Dance, he hears a voice say.
In the Circle of Dancers, he begins to dance. Slowly. Stiffly. Limbs move, energy flows, breath increases, bare soles tromp and shuffle amid the cool dirt and sticky shedding of the cypresses. After a few minutes, the man settles back to simply standing. His body feels awake and alive, senses further open to the song of the world.
Bowing to the circle of trees, he walks back toward the flickering light of the cottage windows.
On the fireplace hearth with its carved, single elephant relief, a second candle, a tall pillar, flickers. The man lights a stick of resinous piñon incense from the American southwest, places the smoldering taper in its holder, and steps into the small galley of a kitchen. He switches on a single light, a shapely tulip of antique frosted glass, above the gas stove. Electric incandescence floods the space, causing his wide brown eyes to squint. As the water heats, still wearing his jacket and scarf, he stirs a small pan of cereal grains—oats, quinoa, amaranth—that will offer a warm breakfast on this cool morning.
The cottage is silent, so too the world outside the sheltering walls and roof. He appreciates the meditation of stirring the pot with a wooden spoon over the blue flame. The gentle and mindful energy keeps with how he begins the day—a hushed and magical meeting of darkness and light, tending the soul at the misty threshold of earth, sea and sky.
“I am quietly old fashioned,” the man observes, and the thought bestows a sense of gentle satisfaction, a soft expansion in his belly and breath. An old soul who still hears and speaks the language of plants, rivers, sea, earth, sky and stars.
Tea and warm cereal ready, he switches off the single light, feeling a sense of relief as the cottage returns to candlelight and shadows, and once again his eyes relax and widen. At the round table in the living room’s alcove, he sits upon the padded bench in the window, a yellow throw pillow behind his back, and gazes through the panes into darkness. The world seems darker now, though day will soon arrive in its painted, vivid glory, and once again things will regain their memory of color and shape, along with the illusion of separateness.
The various standing stones are etched against the shimmering backdrop of pewter sea, while the familiar shapes of the dancers stand perpetually in their graceful poses. Come what may, the day begins in quiet appreciation of beauty and interconnectedness. Grace is omnipresent.
In the hours of daylight ahead, whatever the weather that unfolds—cool and foggy, or warm and clear—the man will be pulled into the work that awaits, the tasks and trials of the day. The manmade world is noisy, demanding, and quarrelsome, but this dawn has been met with mindful intention, an open heart, and expansive breath. May those qualities persist and be carried forward through the bright hours.
For those who are paying attention, the holy is everywhere near… breathing quietly together in a shared inspiration.
In beauty, it’s begun.