DALTON >> I am not a morning person. My interior clock is on Mountain Time; I think nine o'clock is a much better time to start the alert part of my day than seven. And I wake up slowly. It takes two cups of coffee infusion to jump start my mental processes as well as the coordinated operation of my limbs. That's the way it has always been and I am used to it, as are those who are near and dear (who would never dream of phoning me before noon).

Why is it then that I have been enjoying many morning sunrises? Either I have trouble falling asleep or I wake up in the middle of the night, and — after spending an hour on the computer — fall asleep sitting in the comfy chair that faces the window. Because the drapes are open, I often wake just before the break of dawn, so I sit all snuggled up under my afghan with my feet on the ottoman and watch the sky begin to lighten.

A famous author has pronounced there are 50 shades of gray, but I think there are at least a 150. When you are watching the sky awaken, the increments of light are infinitesimal. With the first inkling of light, one is aware of vague shapes. About five minutes later, the shapes have sharpened into a house and a row of tall trees. Fifteen minutes later you realize that the house has a peaked roof, and the last in the row of trees is leafless. By the time the sun is fully arisen you can count the rows of clapboards on the house, which is now seen in its actual color, and there are birds flying in and out of the trees.


The real stars of the dawn sky are the clouds. At first there is only one somber slate gray everywhere above the treeline. Soon there is a differentiation of sky and clouds, just the slightest separation of gray tones. Next come the shape and size of clouds advancing in the light. The other morning, it was a low-hung bank of clouds, smooth and granite-shaded, signaling the possibility of showers. The bank was moving slowly to the east, laboring toward the sun like a herd of turtles.

The next day, all I saw were puffy clouds like heaps of whipped cream scattered in the gray-blue sky. Some mornings the sky is like a blank chalkboard, waiting for the teacher to arrive and write the day's lesson. With no clouds to distract, the foreground is thrown into sharper relief.

A neighbor two yards north has a straight row of trees lined up like sentinels. They must be at least 80 feet tall and vigorous looking, except for that leafless one.

I hope whatever ills befell that one will not move through the line. I would miss that demarcation in the sky. The trees are a valuable part of the landscape, as important as my lone ash tree in the backyard (please emerald ash borer, stay away).

When the sun is fully risen, and the cats demand to be let out, I leave my perch in the soft chair, and begin the morning routine that has evolved over the past 11 years. I leave the sky-watching to others as I turn my attention to chores inside the house. It isn't until dusk, when I sit down to watch the television news, that my eyes return to the view of now-fading light.

Sooner and sooner now, the October sky darkens and the house and the row of trees across the street disappear from view. I miss them already. They are much more interesting than the shades of gray and black on the television.

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.