It has never been difficult for me to conjure up the image of a perfect morning. I have been enchanted by many an idyllic ideal of a summer day, when the sun lit all of outdoors from its early vantage point, shadowed only by a sprinkling of clouds just right for occasional shape-gazing. The grass still damp with dew showcased flowers and almost-flowers seeking out those sunny rays: rambler roses and Queen Anne’s lace and holly hocks and jimson weed all entwined in collective loveliness. Birds and bees performed in concert – somehow as harmonious as it was gently cacophonous – while butterflies flitted and swirled in whimsical choreography. Then, at the sound of Grimes’ 11:30 lunch whistle in the distance, the perfect morning was past.
Those days on River Road so many decades ago stretched deliciously on as the sun climbed ever higher and the cows moseyed from barn to pasture and back again, ignoring the clanking clang of men and their machines gathering bedding and fodder for the herd. At day’s end, light faded to an inky darkness, punctuated only by the blink and glow of lightning bugs – until it was once again time for another perfect morning. They never disappointed – those mornings – and they still do not. The daily show, as nature revels in its intricacy, lasts just long enough to dazzle.
I think I have always been drawn to the hush of a morning, before the interruption of man-made clamor. Later on any crisp autumn day, we mortals will crunch underfoot leaves that have spiraled earthward; until then, only audible is their rustle in a light breeze or a creature’s scurry, against the backdrop of trees quilted in the vivid hues that mark the end of the growing season. The stillness of a winter dawn, all pure and white with bright glints of early sunlight, welcomes the unobtrusive bound of a white-tailed deer or the landing of a robin who decided to winter with us. And a spring morning is all lace and delicacy and awakening, as a glorious freshness greets one and all.
As quickly as mornings of any season pass, however, nature has other ways to more momentarily tease and tempt us. How many mornings have I looked up from my current book and glanced out the east windows to witness the sun’s welcome, painted in a combination of warm shades and tints impossible to reproduce by even the most experienced of artists? And how often have I continued reading, only to realize with my next peek at the sky, that in mere moments the colorful kaleidoscope of dawn has disappeared?
Equally ephemeral, of course, is the snowflake. It descends elegantly to earth – original in form – only to dissolve on contact or to lose its independent character in icy reunion with its crystal siblings.
Eventually replacing the snowflakes of winter are the blossoms of spring. As much as I love the blooming time of my tulips and crocuses, there is a soft spot reserved in my heart for the dainty petals of the sweet Williams and spring beauties that carpet lawns and pastures and the tiny violets that seem to hide there. They share their gentle beauty for a mere handful of days each year – and sadly seldom survive the grasp of tiny fingers so wanting to deliver a bouquet to Mommy.
And then there are the rainbows. The unicorn of nature, rainbows are so elusive and even mythical that their appearance somehow rises to the level of the sublime. This arch of colors materializes soundlessly, creates a palpable stir among admirers, exudes hope even through its fragile transparency, and evanesces silently – leaving us better for having witnessed such an exquisite spectacle.
Of course, nature has blessed the world from time immemorial with breathtaking vistas and spectacular natural wonders, in the form of seemingly more permanent mountains and volcanoes, waterfalls and deserts. Forests, oceans, and beaches have always attracted human attention, while the skies overhead provide eclipses and comets and the shimmering curtains of the Northern Lights to amaze us. And any superlative of my choice would be thoroughly inadequate in describing the likes of the Grand Canyon or the Great Barrier Reef. Certainly, there is nothing fleeting about these creations of nature.
And, too, time often seems to stand still when nature flexes her power during a raging blizzard or the onslaught of a fierce hurricane. Unrelenting rains, unending droughts, and endlessly oppressive heat are extended natural experiences that never seem to stop soon enough.
As much as we appreciate the longtime beauty of nature and dread its unsettling excesses, it is her brief, often unexpected features we seem to relish. Yet, there is something I have come to realize when I consider winter snowflakes and April showers and rainbows at any time.
Timing is also a creation of nature. All that happens in the natural world surrounding us requires a particular amount of time – no more and no less. How long each aspect lasts is actually of concern only to us humans. Other beings of nature operate according to naturally-occurring rhythms. The grand perpetuity of Mount Everest, the modulated pace of a life cycle or a day – and, yes, the fleeting nature of a sunrise streaked across the morning sky – simply assure us a certain sense of security upon which we will continue to rely.
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.