Sunrises deserve our attention and praise

sunrise, Amish farm
A winter sunrise in Holmes Co., OH.

I’m a sunrise junkie. Spending most of my life in bucolic Holmes County, Ohio hooked me.

Sunsets can be gorgeous, too, but there is just something special about watching the blackness of night slowly transform into an explosion of shimmering radiance.

Sunrises usher in a new day, every day. No two are alike. Sunrises paint the horizon in majesty, no artificial coloring, chemicals, or preservatives added. Mornings can be brilliant, sometimes dull, and often obscured by clouds or our personal negligence. Nevertheless, sunrises persist.

Sunrises are free. They literally edify people, whether they realize it or not.

I’ll admit that I didn’t fully appreciate the power and gift of a peaceful, awe-inspiring sunrise. Living in pastoral Holmes County quickly instilled a resounding admiration for the daily occurrence. The rural settings east and west accounted for that.

Sunrises, however, enhanced those inspiring countryside scenes. I thrilled at watching a winter’s dawn filter through the little woods behind our Killbuck home. Yesterday’s snow morphed from white to pink to purple and back to fields of sparkling diamonds in a matter of minutes.

rural sunrise
Rural sunrise.

That silent, reverent beauty astounded me, readied me for the day ahead, and fortified me to proceed with whatever I encountered. Naturally, some days were better than others. If I remembered the sunrise, my burden often lightened enough to sustain me.

That existentialism increased along with my responsibilities when I became an administrator, and we moved to East Holmes. Our home was built on an Amish farm with incredible views east, north, and west. Spectacular sunrises made them more so.

I rose each day to arrive at school by 7 a.m. More often than not, a sunrise greeted me on my way. In the winter, the sun appeared as the young scholars arrived. The already rosy-cheeked faces became even more so.

Likely, I am romanticizing those long ago moments. No matter. Like the rising sun’s universal effect, the memories whitewash the darker times of anyone’s career that involves daily interacting with people of various ages, traditions, and beliefs. That doesn’t negate nor diminish the recollections.

For something so brief, sunrises serve as powerful reminders of what was, is, and can be. It’s up to the eye of the beholder to discern and employ the light’s soothing warmth with all those we encounter through justice, mercy, and humility. That’s the potential of a single sunrise.

I found it ironic then that all these ardent thoughts tumbled through my mind like crashing waves as dazzling daylight washed over the Atlantic Ocean. That’s the mysterious point of life’s cosmic magic, isn’t it?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At first, a hint of paleness divided the dark sky from the sea as billions of celestial jewels sparkled in the heavens above. Soon a thin orange line stretched clear across the distant horizon. Cottony clouds sprinkled high and low caught invisible rays and turned them into a surreal light show that out shown any Disney artificial production.

Black skimmers winged by, flying silhouettes scooping their fishy breakfast from the salt water surface. Forster’s terns hovered, dived, and plopped into the sea for theirs, briefly breaking the glassy waters.

Everything, the sand, the water, the sky turned some shade of purple, lavender, and then pink, orange, and red. I stood frozen and silent on the shore. Awed, I observed, appreciated, absorbed, and offered unspoken words of praise.

My school days have long since passed. Yet, another day was at hand. With each sunrise, I aspire to share the light with anyone anytime I can.

I hope sunrises do the same for you.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

When glory bursts through

sunrise, Lakeside OH
Glorious moment.

By Bruce Stambaugh

From our rented efficiency apartment in our favorite Ohio retreat, Lakeside Chautauqua, the day seemed gloomy, even overcast. Then I stepped outside into the predawn elements.

High, wispy cirrus clouds tickled the waning half moon. The previous evening’s rainstorms birthed refreshing morning coolness. At first, the stillness surprised me. It shouldn’t have.

The sleepy town was even sleepier on this Sunday morning. On the way to the lakefront, I broke through the waif of freshly made doughnuts at The Patio, the village’s popular eatery, without temptation.

When I reached the dock, I was stunned. Not a soul could be seen or heard. The day’s early morning dim light glowed along with the Victorian lampposts. Dimpled rivulets, like a sea of golf balls, pockmarked the calm Lake Erie.

Typically this alluring pier is packed with folks, even at sunrise. Walkers, joggers, fisherman share the space. Not today. I had the place to myself. I was both thrilled and awed in the silent twilight.

A pinkish halo hovered over Kelley’s Island five miles across the water. However, a peek to the east dampened my hopes for a sterling sunrise. Still I hoped.

I retreated to the pier’s entrance, mentally adjusting for a morning stroll around the resort town’s parameters. I glanced east again and found paradise. The sun’s bright beauty overrode the clouded horizon.

All glory was bursting through. I chose to exercise my senses rather than my legs. The Sunday morning service was about to begin, and I wanted to participate.

I walked along the rocky reinforced shore toward the call to worship. Using my eyes, ears, heart, soul, and camera, I recorded as much of the sacred ceremony as I could.

Baltimore Orioles picked up the chorus with the robins and purple martins. A lone common nighthawk buzzed overhead, skimming insects attempting to attack the unfolding beauty.

Fish played, jumped, and fed in the shallows near shore, rippling the calm waters that reflected the brightening sky. First pink and red, then orange and yellow added to the heavenly pallet.

Yellow, purple, and white irises dotted with last night’s raindrops joined the congregation. Stone upon stone sculptures added to the outdoor ambiance.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Surrounded by reflected brilliance, a family of Canada geese glided through the still waters without their usual commotion. Unaware of my presence, a pair of young raccoons cooed as they foraged in the oversized rocks for anything edible.

Lakeside daisies, held harmless by earlier cooler days, stood at attention during the offertory. As if rehearsed, the geese honked while the Nighthawk buzzed, forming an inexplicable choir. The sun just smiled its approval.

The shoreline trees expressed their worshipful appreciation, too. The willows gracefully bowed as the geese floated by, while the oaks and ash remained tall, strong and attentive.

Soon other humans were drawn to the splendor. A visiting woman ran past me and asked if lived here. I wish. Even if I did, I still couldn’t begin to own the natural grandeur.

Protect it, preserve it, embrace it, praise it. Yes. Claim it as my own. Never.

This may sound funny, but it’s true. Without a sound, the sky spoke reassuring words, words that calmed and healed and inspired.

The sermon’s message was clear. No earthly power or politician or calamity or chaos could overcome this evolving creation of the Creator.

In that, I was most confident and filled to overflowing. At the benediction, the sun wholly overtook the darkness, and indeed, it was good.

sunset, Lakeside OH
Perfect ending.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

Giving praise where praise is due

Marigolds by Bruce Stambaugh
Marigolds highlight an Amish homestead.

By Bruce Stambaugh

It had been a difficult day.

As the silvery sunset melted into the horizon, I reflected on the last few days and the people and events that had occurred. In reviewing the various situations, it hit me that like it or not I was entering the October of my own life, and that got my attention.

Days earlier I had met my friend Steve in a Mexican restaurant in the city where I was born and raised. Steve is a long-time buddy connected to my school principal days. Steve and I have a lot in common. First and foremost is that we both like to talk, at least according to our spouses.

If for no other reason than that alone, Steve and I have agreed to meet periodically without the wives. We get more talking done that way.

Steve is the kind of friend every guy should have. He doesn’t let you get away with anything. He is a self-appointed critic of my writing, and is unabashed about finding any mistakes that somehow make it through to publication. Well, at least he thinks they are mistakes, but he usually is mistaken.

Bright Angel Canyon by Bruce Stambaugh
Bright Angel Canyon at the Grand Canyon, AZ is a favorite spot for hikers, painters and photographers alike.

That’s the kind of friends we are. He has the same theology about technology that I do. He loves to frequent the western United States and does so annually, months at a time, mostly hunting for arrowheads. Archeology and travel are other mutual interests.

At bat by Bruce Stambaugh
Baseball is my favorite sport.

Another thing we have in common is baseball. He hates it. I love it. Also, we enjoy discussing politics, until the conversation gets too political, then we switch to a more congenial topic, like baseball.

We talk about our late fathers and how our mothers are doing. And of course, we extol our wives, and try not to roll our eyes too much. Did I mention we laugh a lot?

A few days later, I took my mother on a short drive around the colorful countryside near the retirement home where she lives in Walnut Creek, Ohio. Mom always enjoys getting out when one of us “kids” can take her.

Mud Valley by Bruce Stambaugh
A typical scene in Ohio's Amish country, this one near Walnut Creek, Ohio.

This day was exceptional. The sky was pure blue, allowing the sun to heighten the already vivid colors. Since Mom was an avid and prolific watercolor painter, I always hope these short rides spark a memory of those days gone by when she and her friends would find a spot to paint, set up their easels and spend the day communing with nature and one another, beautifully interpreting what they saw.

Besides the warm hues of the leaves, a stunning red-tailed hawk flew right across our path. Around the curve, Mom spied some flashy marigolds. All in all, it was an invigorating jaunt. Seeing that Mom enjoyed the little excursion, I chose to tell her a comment that Steve had shared with me at the Mexican restaurant.

Marian Stambaugh by Bruce Stambaugh
Marian Stambaugh, 89, taught me to see and share in creative ways.

Knowing my mother was an accomplished landscape artist, Steve said, “You have your mother’s eye.” I non-verbally asked for clarification. “Instead of a brush, you paint with words and through the lens of your camera.” I don’t know if Steve noticed or not, but tears welled in my eyes. I was honored with the keen compliment. When I shared the kind words with Mom, tears welled up in her eyes, too. Despite her advanced dementia, knowing that Mom had understood at least a little of the depth and breadth of Steve’s insight made the compliment all the more meaningful.

The circle of blessing was now complete. It had returned to its rightful owner, the creative and artful woman who had taught me to see and share Creation’s beauty.

Suddenly, this difficult October day didn’t seem so difficult after all.