The Light of a New Day
Sunday ended with a spectacular sunset on the beach. The elements were shining in my photographic favor that night. We awoke the next morning for the sunrise in celebration of my 32nd birthday. I wasn’t in the brightest of moods this day. I couldn’t stop ruminating over life and death and everything in-between. It was hard to imagine that one year ago I was closing out my 365 Project in Savannah, GA. I had accomplished a huge personal goal and I felt alive for it. Talks with Raul about the Spring Arts poster had just started around that time too. There was so much to look forward to then. So much to be grateful for. This year felt a far cry from that liveliness, although the immense gratitude remained and in the distance there were many things to look forward to, but they felt so far removed from my current state. It felt less like a birthing and much more like an ending. This morning I felt less alive and more fading, eagerly awaiting my rebirth. Maybe I was carrying out a cycle just like the phoenix?
I had only seen Raul a week before his passing to pick up more Spring Arts posters for the Studio Tour, as renewed interest diminished my supply. I brought Raul & Kat thank you cards and prints. Gave them both hugs. Expressed my thanks for the 1000th time for all their support throughout the poster artist experience. In Raul’s trademark generosity he gave me more posters than I needed, because that’s who he was. This fact was cemented for me as I read the outpouring of grief on Facebook for Raul’s passing. Everything everyone said about him and his essence resonated so deeply with me. Raul was the real deal, and he was so lovable for it. Raul was sincere in all ways. He embodied the essence of life and art. His sudden passing was a jolt to the collective system of those who knew him. People like him aren’t supposed to die. This couldn’t be happening.
Peter and I made our way out to the beach in the quiet morning. I could hear the ocean inhaling and exhaling in the distance. We were a little late in the sense that we missed the blue hour and the sun had already started its ascent above the horizon. I felt irritable and heavy as I tried to maintain some hope of good photography. As we crested over the sand dunes we could see that there was an array of clouds blocking the horizon line. I felt less than thrilled, could hear the hotel bed calling me back, but kept marching towards the sea.
We settled on a spot, Peter breaking out his oil paint sticks, furiously trying to capture the rapidly changing light and scenery before us. I had to take a minute to ground myself. To leave the sad heaviness behind in favor of the beauty that was laid before me. What happened to my make lemonade attitude I harbored the night before? Maybe I left it somewhere on the beach… I scanned my surroundings for a glimmer of hope, a taste of sweet lemonade.
I closed my eyes, matched my breathing to the ocean. One big inhale. One long, grounding exhale. I opened my eyes and quietly took in the scene. It was then that I realized what a beautiful thing was happening before me with the clouds. There was a delightful palette of peachy pinks, golden yellows, vibrant blues, and deep purply grays. There was a big mass of clouds at the horizon, with clouds fanning out from the top in little rays, and a large horizontal cloud that looked almost like a cigar.
There’s a lot to work with here. Even though the sun is hiding behind a mass of clouds, she is backlighting those clouds in spectacular form. The colors and shapes were electrifying and inspiring. I set to shooting, finally settling into the comfort of my art. A stranger passed by and wished me a good morning. He then felt compelled to tell me about some dolphins passing by over yonder earlier. I thanked him for the tip and hoped I would see them later on. The light was getting brighter from within and without.
The scene before me evolved in great ways as the morning went on. The sun finally settling in a tiny break in the clouds, and in that moment an eye could be seen. A comforting, kind, genial eye. That’s how it felt. I took great comfort in that moment. Reminded of the impermanence of it all. To appreciate the now while I have it.
A group of pelicans flew back and forth throughout the morning. I took comfort in their presence. The eye seemed more pronounced until it wasn’t anymore.
It’s so easy to lose myself in the sunrise. Even with the initial struggle on this morning I was able to climb over the hump and get lost in the sun. Sunrises always feel like hours, but all this happened in one hour. One hour for everything to change. In one hour the sun was much higher than before, shining like a searchlight through the thick clouds. A searchlight for the boat in the distance, for the pelicans on their morning commute, and for all of us searching for meaning in the loss.
The intensity of the sunrise was over. We packed up our gear and walked two miles along the beach. I didn’t want to “go” anywhere, but stay on the beach for the day. We had breakfast in the room, then came back out for three hours. I didn’t bring my camera. I only wanted to sit in a beach chair, stare into the ocean, embrace the ocean and its loving, cleansing arms, read a good book, and write. And I did just that. I even fell asleep, which was a new one for me. I slept for a good 30 minutes. I guess I needed it.
In the evening we made our way downtown for dinner at Collage Restaurant. It is intimate, charming, and excellent on all levels. The food works so well together. It truly was a work of art. We had a bottle of Montepulciano wine and gave a toast to Raul while Buena Vista Social Club played in the background, reminded of his presence. Even dessert was an incredible work of art! This was living in the moment. This was celebrating life, celebrating Raul, celebrating my birth.
We made our way back to the hotel a little lighter in spirit. Raul’s memorial was set for the following day. We were calling our trip early to make it back to Gainesville in time. I was grateful for this day, even if it didn’t start as planned. I was grateful for everything that had happened in my life over the past 32 years. Every decision, big or small, every right and every left turn, every yes and no had led me to this moment in time, and for that I felt alive.