The Rising

Words: James – Photos: Jonas

What is it about a sunrise these days that sparks the endorphins in my brain? Granted, the sky is filled with an array of colors that we don’t typically see throughout the day. Is it that change in visual perspective that calls to me? Is that why I’m willing to crawl out of a warm bed, sip that first cup of coffee, and step out into the darkness?
I’ve always been a morning person since I was a kid. I can attribute part of that phenomenon to restless sleep and simply being bored with laying there and staring at the ceiling for hours on end. Though various forms of athletic endeavors, the dark-thirty wake up was part of the training routine. I believe my fascination with sunrises may have all started with the ridiculousness of 5:30am swim practice. What right minded seven year old looks forward to a 4:45am wake up on a school day to get in his first of two daily practices? Simple answer, none.
Fortuitous perhaps, but the direction of our drive to practice was east, the land of the rising sun. I can recall the orange, yellow, red, and purple tones filling the sky as I dozed on and off along the way. Something about the colors, quiet, lack of traffic, general commotion, and anticipation of the work to come being part of the morning ritual must’ve stuck with me over the years.
At one point I seem to recall growing tired of the routine. Maybe I finally wanted more sleep. Perhaps I wondered why the hell other kids I went to school with got to lounge around the house until it was time to roll to school. I approached one of our coaches about the ridiculousness of it all. Why such an early morning wake up? Why two a days? Why so many damn laps?
I can’t recall the exact coaching sermon I received. Yet, the one phrase I did manage to grab and hold onto was, “do the hard things. Do the work. Most people aren’t willing. They’ll take the easy way out. That’s why we win.” I might’ve been 10 years old when I heard those words. They paired well with other work ethic and grit lessons I learned through my formative years and served as a guiding light into adult life.
At this point in the game I’ve seen thousands of sunrises. As I’ve gotten older, the panorama and colors seem to mean more than they ever have. Perhaps it’s the recognition of mortality and being decades closer to the end than those drives to swim practice as an adolescent. Maybe I’ve learned to appreciate simple gifts and the beauty the world has to offer on a different level than I was capable of in the past. Quite frankly, my biggest driver is knowing that sunrises are just one reward for doing the hard things.
For whatever reason, sunrises still serve as a reward. It’s a reminder that I’m willing to do something that others aren’t. Mind you, that doesn’t make me better than anyone else, just different, and willing. I time my wake ups to enjoy that first cup of coffee surrounded by my dogs in the dark and quiet. It’s a bit of meditative time to contemplate the day and physical work to come. I budget the time to gear up, head to the trailhead, then hit a high point on the mountain. The pups and I will always stop, turn back, and take a minute to soak it all in.

I earned this.

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