October sunrise: A fleeting gift ‘best spent afield’
“Memories can be as elusive and as nebulous as morning fog but in the time of dawn they give us guidance.”
By Mitch Mode
Special to the Star Journal
The break of day: Darkness to half-light to full daylight. Night fades; the new day dawns. The span of the new day comes in the time when dark night lifts, slowly, a magician’s cape pulled back to reveal wonder and majesty. In darkness lies mystery; in full light, awareness. The time of dawning spans that gap, unveils all, does so in the steady drift of time from full dark to full light. Daylight rises in October as the last leaves fall; the leaves to the ground, the light of day to the world.
Such is the treasure given to the early riser, delivered to the dawn walkers, offered up to the denizens who find their way to the outdoors in the waning minutes of dark night. With the rise of the curtain of the new day comes the gift to those who are there with the darkness at their back as the eastern sky cracks a thin line of light and that thin line expands into a ribbon and into a band and, in time, into the full span of sky overhead.
In October it comes to the hunters who wait for daybreak, comes to the deer stand sitters or the waterfowlers for such is their sport that they are in the blinds come the end of night and the beginning of the new day.
October is the best month for sunrises; the time dawn comes is reasonable, seven o’clock now. The temperatures are moderate, the leaf color holds treasure unique to that season only. A month ago there was no autumnal color; in another month there will be cold air and bare trees. Now, on the cusp of the seasons, October dawnings give us the alchemy of season and vivid color and a fleeting, all too fleeting, time of dawns best spent afield.
When I leave the house the dark sky is sparked with the glint of stars flung across the darkness like a handful of diamonds tossed above. It is still very dark. It is quiet in the peace and restfulness of a world with the night in slow fade toward the dawn that will come. I drive the requisite distance, park the truck, stand down. There is light smudging the eastern sky. I load the shotgun, walk down the hillside and sit behind a spare screen of spruce branches on the edge of the lake.
My breathing comes slowly to normal. I sit and wait in the shadows of the night.
Ahead of me is flooded backwater of swamp; beyond that the lake. It is still very dark but the lake is silver gray and the sky above is not as dark as it was 15 minutes ago. In my life I have sat in duck blinds at the break of day more times than I can count. Not a one has been wasted.
The world in front of me is dark with shades of black and gray. It stands as an ink drawing where the world is pared down to basic shapes and forms and where shadows have substance. The darkness has a softness to it, the black is not a hard black but more of a blue/black.
The lake is the color of drawn pewter. No wind moves the water to waves. In time the color of the lake will match the color of the sky; in time the oak trees will glow to gold; in time the darkness will lift. But now none of this shows. It is a world of shadow and dark and only the hint of what is to come. We know what will come not because of what we see but because of what we remember. Memories can be as elusive and as nebulous as morning fog but in the time of dawn they give us guidance.
I sit. I wait. My heartbeat slows and I take in the moments of the early day when the dawn is near and time seems to move more slowly and the air more pure. I take in the time of the dawning.
There is a rush of wings that shears the silence, a flash of movement against the gray of the lake. Ducks; two of them. They land out in the lake then turn and swim toward shore to where the oak tree stands and where acorns fall and where the ducks will feed. To where I wait. I see the dark silhouettes of trees, the smudged color of marsh grass, the calm waters of the lake.
The two ducks animate the landscape as they swim toward me. Wood ducks. I can tell that from their shape and their quick-moving manner; wood ducks not mallards. I look at my watch; five minutes till legal shooting hours. I watch the ducks on the water.
They grow wary, hold steady; the ripples they make cease. They have seen me or sensed me or whatever it is that game does that gives them pause. They are motionless. The crucial moment; decision time. Then they swim out, away from me. I ease the shotgun down. I look to my right.
There are three more ducks and they are very close. I stand and raise the shotgun and they take wing. I kill one of them and it falls to the water and lands heavy.
The ripples of water from where the duck has landed spread from the center and then fade to nothing. I walk to the water and pull the bird to shore. It is lighter now and the sun shines on the trees across the lake. There is light coming to the land and the sun light brings color and definition. Gone now the mystery held by darkness; here now the light of day.
The special time has passed. Night has given up to dawn; dawn has yielded to daytime. The sun rises higher. The new day is at hand.
An assortment of outdoor products is available at Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander. Call 715-362-5800.