Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SUNRISE

Winter sunrise in Meridian, MS
"The beginning of morning twilight is dawn." Such is the definition of sunrise, a performance of colors that I hardly ever see. Since retirement from a full-time job, I get out of bed at 7 a.m. and usually feel no guilt about snoozing past dawn's early light. However, on the return journey from Sewanee, Tennessee to New Iberia, Louisiana, when we stopped midway in Meridian, Mississippi, my travel companion, Vickie Sullivan, snapped a photograph of a beautiful sunrise while I snoozed away the beginning of morning. The photo shown above showcases a "morning twilight" that I wish I had arisen to see instead of lollygagging in bed.

I've experienced a few sunrises in my lifetime. One spring morning at dawn, I got up early to begin work on a book and opened the back door just as an armadillo crawled out of the coulee in my backyard here in New Iberia. As soon as I stepped into the yard, he skittered back into the coulee, and I was left to enjoy a rainbow-colored dawn. Two days ago, at 7 a.m. I looked out my study window and saw another of these armored creatures rooting in the leaves past the dawn hour when he usually retreated to his domicile. He was a huge armadillo that could have been the same critter I scared off a few years ago and was so heavy that he experienced difficulty lumbering back into the coulee when I opened the back door to get a better look. I shudder to think how many more critters are housed in that coulee. I've seen a possum, a coon, and the armadillo appear from their domiciles in the ditch several times. Poison ivy abounds there, as well as snakes that I hope the neighborhood cat keeps from multiplying. I have cleared dead vegetation like ginger, aloe, and palmetto plants from the yard, thrown them into the wide ditch, and watched them resurrect within a year. Life in the coulee parallels that of the wildlife in the woods near my Sewanee home, with the exception of skunks that wreaked destruction in the crawl space beneath the Sewanee cottage. And, no, I don't deliberately choose places to live on the basis of whether they house not-so-welcome wildlife.

A poem inspired by the early morning armadillo appeared in my book, Afternoons in Oaxaca, which I resurrected this morning—no, not at sunrise—but at the appointed hour for breakfast, 7 a.m.

THE ARMADILLO

Morning finally comes.
As blind as he and half awake
I sway to the back door
and look out to the edge
of the new blooming coulee.

A gray-striped shell appears,
snout moving blindly in ground cover,
tiny head swiveling back and forth,
unearthing a grub—
the fat yellow substance of day
he could not find by night.

My grubs wait in the prayer of night,
four times awakening me to walk
with pain, in unwelcome darkness.

And he is an armored knight
passing my way, saying
you will find something,
something fat and rich
in the soil of morning...
even blinded.

I could plead that I don't get up at dawn to see the sky turn shades of red, green, blue, and yellow because I don't want to see the critters that emerge from the coulee here in Louisiana or from the woods surrounding the campus at the University of the South in Tennessee. But the truth is that I consider an extra hour of snoozing a perk of retirement, and I'm old enough to know you shouldn't pass up perks.
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