Marriage, Sunrise, and “People of the First Light”

“I believe as I believe the sun has risen, not because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  – Tim Keller

Cadillac Mountain Sunrise 3
Sunrise from the summit at Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park.

 

All too often, Nat and I find ourselves “out over our skis” when it comes to cramming things into a day. If an event-free Saturday presents itself, we look to get as much in as we can, but always seem to underestimate by a huge margin the time required for each activity – gym, groceries, lunch, whatever.

So when we made the decision to embark on a sunrise hike on our recent vacation to Acadia National Park, I anticipated any hiccup in our plans throwing the entire idea off and preventing us from an otherwise memorable experience, and there would be plenty to choose from…

  • We were starting Day 2 of our week-long vacation after all, yet somehow convinced ourselves that waking up at 3:30am would be a good idea.
  • We were a 40-minute-drive from the mountain, so we needed all of that time to ensure we’d find the trail entrance (in total darkness and the vastness of the park), then reach the top in time for sunrise.
  • Of course we didn’t have adequate flashlights, but I was confident in my iPhone to literally show us the way.
  • We had expected there to be groups of people with the same idea we had, but we found ourselves flying solo – just me, Nat and whatever wildlife might be starting their day with us on the mountain.
  • Five minutes in we had veered off course, missing the trail marker and having to double back.

 

So all minor things but any one of which I thought might force us, very amateur hikers, off the trail and back to sleep.

Nat and I love watching the sun come up together.  Early on in our relationship, when I lived a short walk from the lakefront, we’d get out early with some coffee and watch the sun light up Lake Michigan and the skyline of Chicago.

The symbolism of a sunrise might be obvious, of course.  Maybe it’s played out and a total cliche, but it’s always been meaningful to me nonetheless, and never ceases to be an invigorating way to start a new day.  For me, sunrise always represents the same simple but important things:

  • Opportunity

The world never feels as open and accessible to me as it does during a beautiful sunrise.

The endless number of ways of enjoying our crazy world, from seemingly mundane happenings in our day-to-day lives to once-in-a-lifetime special events.

The opportunity to make a difference to those closest to us and those we’ve yet to meet.

An open invitation to newfound knowledge, wisdom, insights and perspective.

The blank canvas of what we might create next – a new relationship, a mended old one, powerful new ideas or a fresh take on an old belief.

  • Consistency & Dependability

Despite whatever problems I might be dealing with at any given point, there’s something comforting in knowing that this same beautiful event will be there for me every morning, and available for anyone who chooses to take a moment to appreciate it.

  • Perspective

There’s nothing like the natural beauty of a quiet, peaceful sunrise to remind me just how small my problems are in relation to (without getting too “new-agey”) the magnitude of this universe, and simply taking a moment to appreciate something much greater than myself always seems to take a little weight off my shoulders.

  • Commitment

For me, there’s no environment as conducive to productive reflection, meditation and creativity (in whatever form that presents itself) than during a quiet sunrise over a beautiful horizon.  And I always find myself starting these days with a re-commitment to take full advantage of, and find appreciation for, every possible minute that I can.  I inevitably fall short of this pledge, but there’s a rush in refocusing on improvement and gratitude during these moments that is unlike any other.

Cadillac Mountain Sunrise
Me and Nat at the Summit of Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park. September 12, 2016.

 

That’s why I knew the first time Nat and I watched the sun come up six years ago, that’s how I was going to one day propose to her (at that time blindly hoping, of course, that she was as interested in me as I was in her).

Because the same symbolism of the sunrise on a given day, I thought, also applied to a marriage over the course of a lifetime – an opportunity to love and lead our own family and create a new, more meaningful life together; a commitment to something, and someone, greater than just ourselves; and a pledge to consistently strive to be our best possible self for the sake of the other, our marriage and our family, current and future.

On our first day in Bar Harbor, Maine, Nat noticed a downtown street banner claiming its citizens as “People of the First Light.”  For a majority of the year, the summit at Cadillac Mountain is the first point the sun hits the continental United States.

So when a little over an hour after starting our hike in the middle of the night, in darkness and what felt like the middle of nowhere, we hit the summit just in time for the most beautiful sunrise we’d ever seen, it felt like a literal and metaphorical high point of our young marriage.  We were so proud to become, at least for a day, two of Bar Harbor, Maine’s true “people of the first light.”

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