I used to live right on the beach. Our southward facing windows looked over the boardwalk, the sand, the ocean, and the horizon; as the days grew longer and shorter, I used to think about tracing, in white pen on the windows, the growing and shrinking arcs the sun followed as the days went by a la John Nash. There is nothing quite as naturally beautiful as the rising sun, and one of the mornings before I had to leave this home forever, I went out to sit on the sand to watch this marvel just before dawn.
There was a clear and cloudless sky with the stars silently twinkling at me. There wasn’t much wind that night, but once in a while, a gentle breeze would blow from behind me. It was strong enough to shift the sand dunes around me, but it wasn’t strong enough to cause it to kick up into my eyes as I sat there. The salty smell of the ocean was there, as always; a few times, I closed my eyes and tried to permanently capture this reassuring and consistent smell, along with the feel of the sand, mixed with small seashells and tiny pebbles scattered throughout, and the sound of the breeze, in my mind – this wonderful memory of my first real home outside Singapore. This nest that I had spent seven years living in. The place where I learned about a new culture and that I had finally felt like I had begun to belong to.
The first moments as night slowly transforms to dawn are like the first moments you experience when the curtain rises on a play or an opera for the first time of the evening. You started watching the curtain from the second you sat down in your seat; you never quite give it your full attention as you read your program or take in the sights, but you are always aware that the curtain is there, and any movement from it instantly draws your full attention to it. When it rises, you anticipate the upcoming show. Likewise, the night sky acts like a dark, star-studded curtain to the main event. I looked at the ocean, the stars’ reflections in the water, up and down the long stretch of beach on both sides, but I always had some of my attention on the sky. As the sky eventually turned from its inky black to a dark shade of indigo, I immediately shifted my gaze to the east, and though I had seen this show before, I eagerly anticipated the things to come.
As a few more minutes go by, the color change in the sky becomes less uniform. While the more western areas of the sky retained its darker blues, the eastern sky begins to separate into many groups of colors that are so similar to each other that they blend and transition smoothly from each other, yet so different that it feels like there is no possible way that they all come from the exact same source. Like excess watercolor rolls down a canvas if left unattended, these shades of purples, oranges, golds, reds, and blues slowly but surely begin to bleed into the rest of the sky in every direction but down. People say that nothing escapes gravity, yet, in this moment and in this space, these rays of light defiantly move in all directions but the “correct” one.
There is now enough color and light that I can now see these colors reflected on the ocean, which seems completely calm and still in the distant horizon. I had looked as far as I could at that horizon many times through the years, and despite the fact that I know that the Earth is round, whenever I see the seemingly endless ocean, I understand why our ancestors believed that the Earth was flat. While during the night, the sky and the ocean blend into a seamless shawl of darkness, as dawn breaks, so does this shawl and I can look at this infinite ocean stretch out before me with the only visible ends being the waves lapping up on the beach just feet in front of me.
Finally, the sun peaks its head over the horizon. Its arrival is silently heralded by a burst of light in my eyes. The lead role of the show has arrived on stage and is dancing her first dance, speaking his first lines, singing her first aria, and what a sight to behold it is. It slowly begins to make its ascent from the horizon – large and primarily orange and red, but the color transitions move from light tones to dark tones in a continuous spectrum across the sky that makes you truly appreciate that, no matter how many words for different colors that any language has for many different colors, there will never be enough words or detail to describe the light and color spectrum.
I continued to sit there as the sun began to rise higher on the horizon, and its color turned whiter and its light became more intense, banishing the last of the darkness on the furthest reaches of the western horizon. Its ascent is slow but sure, and it seems to shrink in size as it rises higher. Seagulls had started their incessant cawing for the day as they went about the beach, the boardwalk, and the bins, scavenging for food. I finally stood up, stretched, and left when the sun became too intense to look at directly.
As I walked up to the boardwalk, I took a look behind me once again. The sky was beginning to take on the color of Forget-me-nots that all of us recognize as what was going to be a beautiful and cloudless days. I allow my attention to focus again on the sound of the ocean waves, inhaled the salty air, and allowed myself just a few more seconds in the glorious morning before I went back home.