We didn’t have to do it this way, the alarm set for dark o’clock, headlamps, a pack for extras. Straight up a hillside from the parking lot, all of us living in the narrow, bright cone of our lamps, scanning the slope for trees with blazes on them.
Cold, but as we climb we warm up. Zippers unzip. Layers come off and get stowed.
At first light we crest the rise and find the observation tower, a heavy stone structure, built with local granite at a time when that sort of thing made sense. Headlamps blink off, and we climb the wide, gray stairs to the lookout.
We’re early, a strip of light orange along the horizon, above a low cloud bank, but sunrise still twenty minutes off.
The thing is, from our bedroom window, on a clear day, we can see the sun rise over Boston Harbor, a bright glow emerging from the nests and warrens of humanity clustered along the coastline. Even from the bed, laying there in the pre-dawn, we get that ethereal pink-orange light that precedes the main event. We are lucky to live so close to the coast, to live on a hill that looks South and East.
And sometimes we get up in the dark and find a different place to stand and watch.
It’s cold in the tower. The dense trees on the front side of the hill shielded us from the wind as we climbed up. Now we’re standing on top, there is little shelter, so we shift back and forth and wait. Several in the group suggest we just go. There’s an hour or two of hiking in front of us, and a few want to start.
But that’s not why we came. We came to see the sun rise and patience is a part of that. Anticipation of an event that has transpired every day of our lives and will continue on in a time frame our minds can’t probably inhabit even theoretically.
We stand and wait, and it’s stupid in a way, but also the best thing any of us will do today.
We didn’t set our alarms to hike, not this time of year, not in this weather.
Eventually, the orange light goes yellow, concentrates itself into a bright, opening eye, and the sun breaches the horizon. We watch as best we can without blinding ourselves. In a few minutes it’s over.