The un­ex­pected joys of dawn’s early light

The News Tribune - - Opinion - BY KEN SIKES Reader colum­nist

Wak­ing up is hard to do, and never more so than on a cold, dark morn­ing. I felt es­pe­cially lethar­gic one morn­ing last week when the day ahead was full of “to dos,” “haven’t dones” and “don’t want to think abouts.”

It was cold and dark and windy, only a rainy horseman shy of the apoca­lypse. I’d likely have gone straight to break­fast if not for my dog. What’s that bumper sticker prayer? “Lord help me be the per­son my dog thinks I am.”

There is no amount of dark­ness or morn­ing chill that damp­ens her en­thu­si­asm for getting out the door.

So I laced up my shoes, grabbed the leash and headed our six feet out into the dark. I have a reg­u­lar route: east on 70th then north on Wa­p­ato Street un­til I reach Wa­p­ato Hills Park.

You would think icy wind would be enough to wake me up, but even after a mile I re­mained groggy, my mind and body strug­gling to come to terms with what I was do­ing.

The sign at the cor­ner of the park, barely read­able un­der the street lights, re­minded me that the park wouldn’t be here if not for Skip and Laura Vaughn. I nod­ded my thanks for their gen­er­ous gift as I passed.

Mile two be­gan at the base of Wa­p­ato Hill. Fif­teen years ago, when we moved to South Ta­coma, the path to the top was just a ser­vice road. Now pea gravel lines a one-mile loop. I huffed slowly to the top, at one point step­ping on the rot­ting de­posits of a wild ap­ple tree, no other signs of life be­side the oc­ca­sional pile of coy­ote scat.

I know peo­ple oc­ca­sion­ally sleep there, but I also be­lieve 6:30 a.m. isn’t a com­mon time for as­saults. Plus, who’s gonna mess with a guy with a vi­cious springer spaniel at his side?

We crossed the first of a pair re­cently built foot­bridges over bogs that used to drench my shoes, and I con­tin­ued to shake off the cob­webs. By the next bridge my joints were be­gin­ning to loosen and dark shapes were start­ing to have color.

The pace of my breath­ing fell in synch with my stride, ev­ery other crunch of gravel ac­com­pa­ny­ing an in­hale or ex­hale.

Be­low and off my right shoul­der were the lights of South Ta­coma, ar­ti­fi­cial and or­dered. The steeple of Visi­ta­tion Catholic stretched the dark sky­line.

Though I was grow­ing more alert, the sleep was only partly out of my eyes when I rounded the cor­ner to face east and it dawned on me. I mean that lit­er­ally. Dark­ness faded and dawn was upon me. Col­ors and light rose from be­low like bil­low­ing cot­ton candy, chas­ing the fad­ing in­digo night higher into the sky.

It was as if some­one sliced a ruby red grape­fruit and squeezed its color onto the hori­zon. I was in slack-jawed awe. A voice I couldn’t have stopped if I’d wanted be­gan ris­ing in my throat, “Come on!” I shouted, caus­ing my dog to jerk around and stare.

“Bring it!” I con­tin­ued to run and shout. My ex­cla­ma­tions were some­where be­tween Lieu­tenant Dan and Ge­orge Bai­ley; part chal­leng­ing God from the mast of a shrimp boat and an­other part run­ning through Bed­ford Falls shout­ing “Merry Christmas” to the old build­ing and loan.

I don’t know if it was protest or praise, but I skipped right over awake and into wide-eyed alert. I was an odd rooster to any­one try­ing to sleep in that park.

What goes up must even­tu­ally come down. Even­tu­ally the shout­ing ceased and we fol­lowed the fa­mil­iar route out of the park.

We now ran west, head­ing the same di­rec­tion the sun would set in only a few hours.

Ken Sikes is a South Ta­coma res­i­dent and pas­tor of Man­i­tou Park Pres­by­te­rian Church. He is one of six reader colum­nists who write for this page. He can be reached at [email protected]

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