One day, ages ago, during my high school years when I majored in photography, I wanted to head out before dawn to capture the sunrise. The only one who would join me at that hour, was my beloved grandmother. We got into the car around 4:30 in the morning and headed down to the boardwalk on the South Shore of Staten Island.
It was misty and cool that morning, and the instant I took the lens cap off the camera, the lens fogged. I was disappointed that nature would interfere with my nature photography – go figure – but my grandmother suggested it could make my sunrise pictures different from those of others.
As we walked through the parking lot to the boardwalk we saw this creature lumbering along the sand. We stopped in our tracks. Silent – because, why scream? We were the only people there.
“Raccoon?” I asked in a whisper.
My grandmother snorted a knowing breath. “Rat.”
Beach rat to be precise. About the size of a raccoon.
We were closer to the boardwalk than the car at that point and who knew what was skittering unseen behind us…so we ran. RAN. Myself and my riceball of a grandmother RAN to the boardwalk, up its stairs and over to a bench, laughing the whole way in terror and at the absurdity of it all.
We sat there for a nice long time, with the cool misty air forming our words into puffy little clouds that danced and bowed before our eyes. And then the sun came up, and for those who don’t know, a sunrise is a whole lot faster than a sunset. No time to linger or sigh at the beauty, just time to click the shutter once, twice, maybe 10 times and…done.
I have only one of those pictures now. One that I deliberately trimmed to fit onto a wall clock my grandmother gave me as a gift. It’s not a good shot, by any means, but it might be my favorite of all the pictures I’ve taken through the years.
It was a beautiful sunrise, not because of the sun, but because of the moment. And the person with whom I was fortunate to spend that moment.
As of this morning, this cool misty morning, there have been 10 years of sunrises since my grandmother’s passing. I miss her beyond words. I miss her spunk and biting wit. I miss her encouragement and wisdom. I also miss the question she’d ask repeatedly: “Did you finish your book yet?”
Sadly, my answer was always no, and yet she expressed pride in my efforts every step of the way. While I have many to thank for helping me complete the project – despite work and family and other life events – her constant inquiries still echo in my mind and so to her, today, my book is dedicated. In fact, I believe more than a little bit of her fortitude lives on in my heroine, who never, ever backs down.
At this most uncertain moment in our world’s history, when fear is indescribably elevated for most of us, may we all see many more years of sunrises, and share many more of them with those around us, because it’s the moments, those fleeting blissful moments, that connect us in the here and now, and beyond.