Sunrise is the most wonderful part of the day
|Can there be anything more beautiful than an African sunrise? Some would opt for an African sunset, and they’d be right. Our sunsets are as spectacular as our sunrises. To me, though, sunset means an end. The culmination of the day. It’s all over. Until sunrise. |
How fortunate we are to be able to camp out in our beautiful African bush, sleeping through the coughing of a distant leopard, the howl of a far-off jackal. The “kwe-kwe” of the frogs in the river blends into the sounds of the African night. We awaken well before sunrise. The silence and utter stillness just before sunrise has roused us, as it always does. Lying still in our sleeping bags we do not speak, unwilling to spoil the anticipation of the age-old miracle unfolding around us. Perfect silence is eventually broken by the first tentative birdcalls, followed by an outbreak of twittering and full-throated bird song from the trees and bushes around our campsite.
The first faint pink glow tinges the dark sky. The stars have retreated, to bide their time until sunset. The angular shape of the surrounding flat-topped thorn trees begins to emerge from the gloom. The frogs are silent. They will sensibly conserve their energy throughout the hot day. We sit cautiously up in our unsteady camp beds, hardly talking, watching the sky. So much sky, a huge empty canvas just waiting to be filled with light and colour. Does Africa have more sky than any other place? The faint pink glow darkens. The sky lightens. The surrounding bush is changing from pink to gold. There are no clouds, so the actual transition from pre-dawn to sunrise is sudden and startling. The sun is up, beginning its eternal and stately dance through the heavens. The light is amazing. God is in His Heaven and all’s right with the world.
As yet, there is little warmth in the sun. Summer is retreating, to make way for the winter season, the dry season. The nearby river is still flowing and from our elevated campsite we can see the zebra and wildebeeste moving down to the water’s edge to drink. The air is crisp, invigorating. No pollution here! By mid-morning we will be basking in the sun’s warmth. The comforting touch of the sun on our backs is wonderful. By lunchtime we will be seeking the shade. Shadows will steadily lengthen, creating long fingers of shadow across the bush. The sun will set in spectacular African fashion. As it always does. Night will come. Then comes the dawn.
Some years ago, we were privileged to experience a total eclipse of the sun in this part of Africa. This particular natural phenomenon took place just after sunrise. In the company of many other people we travelled miles in order to see this phenomenon from the best vantage site possible. My daughter brought along some cardboard “eclipse spectacles” and we took turns to watch the eclipse from beginning to end. I will never forget the awed hush that fell upon all of us as darkness crept inexorably over the land. Africans believe that an eclipse is an omen of great change either for the good of mankind or a portent of disaster and tragedy. There was an audible intake of breath from all of us as blackness enveloped the landscape. Even the birds and insects fell silent. When the sun reappeared, there was an almost tangible sense of relief all around us. In just under three minutes we experienced sunrise, sunset and a second, almost mystical sunrise. Emerging from total darkness into light was wonderful.
So often we are told that “things will be better in the morning”, “tomorrow’s another day” or just “wait until morning”. The sun will rise, chasing away the terrors of the night. Sunrise is full of promise and hope.
Dawn. Sunrise. The beginning of a new day. Bringing hope and expectation. Confirming our faith in the wonderful cycle of life. Yesterday has ended – gone. Today begins afresh; it’s a totally new day. Little wonder that many ancient peoples worshipped the constant and eternal sun. Whatever may happen to this troubled world, we are assured that the sun will rise until the end of days.