Here’s a beautiful meditation on Morning Watch by one of our alumni:
I used to have a spot. That spot was “my spot.” I had memorized every aspect of it, even down to the arrangement of discarded leaves on the ground. Its familiarity greeted me every morning. The tall pine was right in front of me. There was a cluster of rhododendron trees to my right, and a fallen log was decaying a few paces away from the lofty oak that I stood beneath. The forest was like an intricate machine, and my spot was a perch from where I could observe the workings of its elaborate process. My area was on top of a hill, and it overlooked the valley below. I visited this place every day for four months. This daily trip to my spot came from a tradition called Morning Watch, a tradition that students had celebrated for many years at The Outdoor Academy. Every morning all of the students would circle up and walk silently through the woods to the top of the hill. Everyone had his or her own particular area, where he or she would sit or stand, observe the sunrise, and just have time to be alone. Every dawn we were fortunate enough to attend the sun’s grand entrance, and it was one of my favorite traditions.
Some people may say, “Well, what is so special about going on the same hike every morning?” And they have a good point. Hiking silently up a hill early in the morning and being alone for thirty minutes is not on many people’s daily agendas. But the solitude and routine brought something refreshingly real and raw to everyday life, and Morning Watch made time for reflection and silence in the hustle and bustle of life.
I watched the sunrise many times from the same spot, but each time was a unique experience. Some days were foggy as if someone spilled white paint on everything, and other mornings were more colorful than a box of crayons. One morning was particularly exquisite; the sky was clear, the air was crisp, and the woodland creatures scurried about as we arrived to our spots. I gazed up at the frame of sky in front of me and forgot how to breathe. The view before me was radiant and resplendent. The glowing sun had risen through swaths of colored clouds. The colors had blurred and swirled amongst each other. It was like looking through a kaleidoscope of colors. They were churning, rolling, blending, and fusing to create a masterpiece before my eyes. I was just one singular and miniscule breath, breathing in rhythm with the immeasurable amount of other breaths stifled in the stillness and silence.
I watched the sun move across the horizon day-by-day, morning-by-morning. When I neared the end of my time at The Outdoor Academy, the sun also reached the end of its frame by disappearing behind a forlorn clump of trees. Just as nature takes it course and animals die, nature had taken its course, and my friend in the sky had moved on to bigger stages and brighter spotlights. For a few days, I did not look forward to Morning Watch as I had used to. The hike seemed longer than usual with the thought of that empty sky weighing on me and slowing my steps.
One morning after the sun refused to come out, I arrived at the base of my oak and was perplexed to see a halo of light surrounding a clump of trees. It was the same clump of trees that had eclipsed the sun in the first place, but it seemed as if the sun had made an ultimate appearance, its final bow. Upon seeing the friendly sight of golden rays stretching across my vision, I felt my lips stretch into a wide grin. My friend had returned. Even if it was only for a brief morning, the sun’s reappearance put my mind at ease because if it moved on again, as I knew it would, this time I would be ready with my goodbye.
Clare, Semester 36