These national holidays — Labor Day, Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Martin Luther King’s Birthday — are an odd occurrence for a writer. For those who travel to their workplace each day and live by this other calendar that begins at 9 and ends at 5, these holidays are a respite from that schedule. Writers such as I don’t keep those hours. My every day begins when I rise, which is early because Mayday and Harriet insist on it. They are like clocks, exact in their demands. When I feel Harriet’s cold nose and hear her snuffle into my neck, I know without turning on the light that it is 5 a.m. And it’s usually unfailingly so. If Harriet’s alarm doesn’t work, Mayday comes to second that notion. And so we are up, outside into the still darkness, stars and moon readily apparent, not even the birds have begun their chatter yet. Once the dogs are fed and walked, and the tea has been made and poured, the workday begins. In this schedule, there are no workdays, no holidays, no weekdays, no weekends. One day blends to the next in a seamless ribbon of time. In each day, then, is a period of about four hours when the house is silent as a tomb, the best time for a writer. Around nine or ten, things start to happen, the phone rings, demands begin. But in that space before, between our rising and the awakening of the rest of the world, comes the great gift of stillness.
It is also a time where, sitting at my desk, I think, I’m so lucky, so few others are privileged to see this gradual lightening of the sky, these colors, sometimes subtle, sometimes blazing, as the sun slowly claims the sky. The sunrise is a free and magnificent experience, available every single day. Watching the mountain emerge from darkness, it could be Everest for all the many ways she returns to me, one morning the light striking sharply on her granite top, another, she is shrouded in clouds, and then there are the days when a circle of pink-tinted clouds sit on her peak like a magical little hat. Each and every day, summer and winter, Monadnock enters in a different way. Each and every day, she does so in silence. There is no need to leave home in order to see some of the most subtle yet most moving displays of natural beauty.
We have just had a hurricane pass by us. It was much touted on the television news, which was appropriate because it started out, in the south, as a Category 4, a very strong storm indeed with winds of 145 mph. But as it made its way north, it weakened and by the time it drew up parallel to us, it was just a tropical storm. But, we all thought, we all hoped, it would bring us badly needed rain. It didn’t. Instead we had a day or two of high winds, a few brief showers, and cold temperatures, a bold contrast from the blistering heat we’d been having.
I had friends for dinner on Saturday night. All day, great swaths of white and gray clouds crossed a blue sky, departing brushstrokes from the now distant storm. As the day came to an end, big dollops of pure white clouds sat around the mountain like a collar of whipped cream. We were sitting inside for the first time all summer as the air was so chill, watching the clouds’ drama and exchanging our news when a big bar of color rose out of the sky. Rainbow! We rushed outside to see, just a line rising in the sky, no arc, but radiant colors, red, yellow, green, blue. I thought I should get my camera but felt it would be gone by the time I got back. It wasn’t raining where we stood but apparently it was in the distance. The sun was angling down toward its resting place. As the spectrum began to fade and we turned to go back inside, the show suddenly strengthened and the great phenomenon rose into the mythical arch of a full and magnificent rainbow. We all stood in silence as it grew stronger, then widened into a double rainbow, each end landing in the trees. It was so big and strong, it looked solid, like a structure built. We waited for the unicorns and the pot of gold. These are the ways that the days break in my strangely infinite daily calendar, not a Sunday or a Tuesday or a holiday but a sunrise or a rainbow or a particularly magnificent show of stars in an early morning sky.