The dawn has not yet lit the valley.  The sacred mountain of the East for the Navajo, Mt. Blanca, is capped in pink snow. The only clouds in the sky hover above the summits in radiant purple gray against a powder blue background. To the west, across thirty five miles of flat scrub plains, the San Juan mountains begin to blaze in pink morning light.

Snow lives in patchy clumps nestled between yucca and cactus across the valley.  Light frost covers grass, shrub, tumbleweed and sand.  The snow is thick in the foothills and provides a white contrast to the trees as high as they reach, before they yield to the mighty rock summits in the final three thousand feet above tree line. A black and white magpie alights on the top of a nearby juniper tree, its long tail pointing rigidly horizontal. Brown cottontail rabbits, six feet away on the other side of my window, munch their frosted breakfast. One male battles another and the more timid leaps 3 feet straight up in the air before fleeing. A solitary northbound coyote created an equal and opposite reaction of a southbound bunny. This morning I see no deer, but their presence is not uncommon. There is no hunting permitted here, so they are quite tame. Yesterday I stood on my property, 30 feet from 6 large mule deer, and exchanged curious stares for several minutes before they decided that afternoon grazing was more important than staring down a human.

I can not see the disk of dawn. The sun is behind the six thousand foot wall of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Its rays alone beam through a saddle and skim above the snow covered seven hundred foot high sand dunes which gather between me and Blanca. The clouds have relinquished their color and are gray with yellow fringe. Smaller clouds have yielded entirely to the sun's brilliance and are entirely yellow. The towns on the far side of the valley are fully lit. As the sun emerges from behind the mountains it traces an approaching line from west to east with daylight in tow. The sand dunes are in daylight, the valley is in daylight, but my window is still in the shadow of pre-dawn.

I am on the face of a giant sundial and can gauge the arrival of local dawn by the approaching bright line on the plains, as it marches steadily, chasing away the shadow on the earth before me. As the bright zone approaches my house, the mountains to the east begin to flame at the summits  The clouds above reflect the hot sun beneath.

In anticipation, the light of dawn took an eternity to arrive, but the wait was a beautiful journey. The sun bursted over the mountain ridge, the summits burst into flames, it rose not gently, nor slowly, but leapt over the peaks and instantly brought heat the rooms, melted the frost, brought me into light again.


created November 7, 1997; Crestone Colorado        

revised: November 29, 1997, May 1, 1998, October 21, 1998

format revision: March 7, 1999