Witness to Sunrise

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Written in late October 2003 after significant regional flooding

The two constant days of rain (over 3 inches total) stopped during the night and the winds calmed. It was balmy warm and I opened windows during the night because the house felt so stuffy (in mid-October yet!) Though our northern county has been declared in a state of emergency because of extreme flooding of the Nooksack River around the communities of Everson and Lynden, we are high and dry on our hill top farm that overlooks the valley that is waterlogged and trying to recover. Many of our dairy farmer friends are living on farmyards that are now islands, with impassable roads around them, and struggling to get from house to barn to cows in their hip waders.

The first hints of orange sunrise this morning began shortly before 7 AM, and rapidly stretched across the eastern horizon north and south, with the colors deepening and spreading across the cloud cover. Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters started as dark silhouettes against this palette of rich color, then began to show their crags, glaciers and new snow cover as the sun illuminated the clouds above them. The entire farm was cast in an orange glow for a few brief seconds as the color crept higher and higher up the cloud banks overhead. Then it ended as quickly as it began, lasting at most 6 minutes, giving me barely enough time to run to the top of our hill for the best view and to take these photos. Amazingly, all at once, everything returned to gray and ordinary, with no hint of the spectacular show that had just taken place. It could be dismissed so easily but must not be forgotten in our return to the routine of every breath, every step of our daily lives.

I then went back down to the barn to set the Haflingers free from their two days of barn confinement due to the extreme weather conditions we’ve had. They gratefully leaped and danced across the fields, sending up sprays of water as they splashed through new puddles and “instant ponds” created by the storm. Freedom! Fresh air! Fields of green! Joyous and oblivious to what had happened moments before. Living creatures that know only what their needs are for this moment, not concerned for what comes next or what has just been. Uncomplicated and untroubled. Not much like their human stewards at all.

This rare sunrise is encouragement after the events of the previous two days. It can only happen when the clouds become canvas backdrop on which the color is able to be painted–clouds that created havoc, floods, power outages, and injuries only hours before. Then this. Startling, wondrous magnificence beyond imagination. Grace that brings us to our knees, especially when we are mired in our gray troubled ordinariness and plainness.

Drink deeply of this. Hold it, savor it and know that to witness any sunrise is to see the face of God.