Monday, September 21, 2009


Just as when I read Mary Oliver, I seldom read Diane Ackerman without saying to myself, "She's a witch, whether she knows it or not." This review of her latest book leaves me (1) certain that I am right and (2) longing to set aside an Autumn morning to read the book.

For many women, dawn is the one time that they can devote to themselves, a time for which they find the sacrifice of sleep worthwhile, a moment to be ALONE. My mom, mother of five, farm wife, full time cook, active volunteer, rose every morning in time to be at daily 6:30 am Mass. For years, when I was a single parent, full time teacher, part time lecturer, student, reader, seeker, the five or so minutes when the sun rose -- when I considered that deity might be as involved in the world and me as I was in deity and the world -- were what kept me going. I seldom see a sunrise without feeling around me all the women who, centuries and centuries gone, have risen at the same time to include in their lives a few precious minutes devoted to nothing but themselves and their relationship with deity.

Ackerman's site says: Humans might luxuriate in the idea of being “in” nature, Ackerman points out, but often forget that we are nature—for “no facet of nature is as unlikely as we, the tiny bipeds with the giant dreams.” In prose so rich and evocative that one can feel the earth turning beneath one’s feet as one reads, Ackerman’s thrilling observations—of things ranging from cloud glories to the endangered whooping cranes of the book’s title—urge us to live in the moment, to wake up to nature’s everyday miracles. The WaPo's review says: Thinking of Aurora, goddess of the dawn, leads Ackerman to consider the respective merits of metaphor and science. The planet Venus, she notes, was called "deer of the dawn" in Hebrew, while Roman astronomers dubbed it Lucifer (light-bearing), a name the Bible transferred to a fallen angel, "son of the morning." A glimpse of a baby rabbit at sunrise reminds the author that Eostri, the Celtic goddess of dawn and source of the words East and Easter, was always accompanied by a rabbit; "as Christianity borrowed from the old pagan religions, the goddess Easter became the holiday, complete with benign Easter rabbits."

Ackerman roams far afield, and sometimes the links to her ostensible subject are strained, albeit delightful: A glimpse of starlings flocking at dawn segues into a visit with a friend's hilarious talking bird; the morning light catches a sycamore tree shedding bark in "parchment scrolls reminding me of Archimedes' lost journals." She always returns, however, to her central preoccupation, the need to pause amid life's hurly-burly forward motion and quietly appreciate where we are right now.

It's Autumn. The Eastern Light comes slant and longing for warm mugs of coffee, knitted slippers, a gentle fire in the fireplace. Curl up and read.

How many of you do your daily practice at dawn?

Picture found here.


Aquila ka Hecate said...

I have a dawn practise and a dusk practise - I get up a couple of houts before the sun, anyway.
But yes, it's my favourite time of day.

Wendy said...

I've only just stopped fighting the need for sleep in favour of the early rise and am loving it. I have my am routine but dedicated spiritual time is usually night.

Sobeit said...

I have been getting very early in the morning for over ten years now. I can be up anytime between 4:30SAM and 5:30AM year around. Before the computer it was for reading, and to also meditate and do small daily rites. I have come to love these special hours of the day.

Lucy Fur Leaps said...

Must read Diane Ackerman! Thanks for the introduction. Yes, dawn and dusk. Am a single parent and full time student so those moments are precious ;-)

Anne Johnson said...

That book sounds intriguing, to say the least. As for my practice, I do it at dusk, when the faeries and I are settling down from a long day.

clymela said...

I have always been an"early riser" and the bulk of my spiritual work is done then. In these years of the 60's I am gifted with communion with species scurrying around preparing for the day and the brightness. I love this time and the response from the world saying Good Morning back to me.