Cedar and Pearl

Every morning is different

By John Piotti | Sep 20, 2016

Over a span of more than 30 years, I have spent countless hours sitting on the front porch of our lakeside cottage. I’m usually on the porch whenever it’s raining, as I like to watch the weather cross the lake. I’m also here on many bright days when the rest of the family is on the dock enjoying the midday sun, as I often prefer shade. And I’m here with the family every evening, as we always eat dinner on the porch.

But I like the porch most in the early morning.

The old cottage, which sits on an island on Lake Sunapee, was built by Susan’s great-grandfather back in another age, when cottages could be placed right up to the lakefront. The porch — which runs for 35 feet across the cottage’s front edge, before wrapping around one side — stands six feet above the water and about six feet back from it. When I sit on the porch on my rocker, I see Wyman’s Point on the left and our small rocky point to the right; but if I look ahead, I cannot see any of the island’s shorefront, just the tops of few tall blueberries bushes, and a broad stretch of sparkling water beyond.

It’s the closest feeling to sitting in the cockpit of a boat I have ever experienced onshore. I am situated above the water, but not by much — situated on the water, really. I certainly feel at times like I’m on the water. At dawn, just after the sun has risen from behind Blodgett’s Landing, and the sunlight reflects just so off the rippling water, the porch sparkles the way a boat’s cabin may on a bright morning.

The porch faces northeast, so the solstice sun rises directly ahead. But we are here now in early September, almost fall, and the first rays of sunlight emerge from behind hill or cloud much farther to the east.

I catch more sunrises this time of year. Most mornings this week I have settled into my rocker well before 6 a.m., pulling a blanket over my bare legs. But in late June, I would have to be out here 75 minutes earlier to watch the sky go from black to purple to whatever shades of red, orange, yellow, green, and blue it might become that morning.

Susan inevitably joins me, sometimes within a few minutes, sometimes later. She gets up after she finds the bed empty. How long that takes depends on how deeply she is sleeping, and how chill the air.

She came out on the porch one morning this week, a good half an hour after me, so that the rising sun had already crested the hill. She had just made coffee. She handed me a mug while staring out over the lake to the far shore and the clouds above, captivated by the streaks of crimson and gold.

“Every morning is different,” she said, transfixed.

On that morning, we were treated to a wonderful display of mist, dancing on the water. Little whiffs of white drifted from the eastern shore to the center of the lake, where the mist dissipated upward to form a true cloud — but the lightest of clouds, more like lace than cotton.

Later in the week, we had guests. They were early risers. Not as early as me, but early enough to catch the morning light. They sat with Susan and me on the porch over coffee, inhaling the view, commenting on the weather and the day to come.

Just about everyone enjoys this porch. Who doesn’t like a pretty sight — be it a sunrise, or the sparkle of waves under a high sun, or green hills rising above a blue lake? Who wouldn’t enjoy the long shadows that come just before sunset, or a full moon reflecting on placid water?

But I feel especially blessed, to have taken the view from this porch on so many days, in so many ways. I don’t just see it at one point in time, but day in and day out. In this way, I not only experience the vivid contrast between a calm morning and stormy afternoon, but I’m witness to the small variations — the way the sun rises just a little farther east each day, the way the morning sky is sometimes a dark red and sometimes deep violet. Or how on some mornings a loon calls incessantly, while on others, all I hear is a soft breeze rustling the pines.

I think of it as a grand science experiment, one I get to observe. From one day to the next, only a small set of variables changes. And because of that, I get to see and learn so much more.

Yes, every morning is different. And yet, enough mornings share enough of the same that each day is less about experiencing the new than about learning anew what it means to be grounded to a particular place — one that you will always know, but which you can always know better.

I’m talking here about a cherished lakeside home. But I’m also thinking about myself — whom I clearly know, but clearly need to know better. Every morning reminds me of that.

John Piotti lives in Unity. His column “Cedar and Pearl” appears once a month.

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