Early each morning I take my dog Lucy for a walk. It is a routine that we never miss and even if I sometimes would like a break from this ritual, I quickly get over my attitude when I swing open the gate and hear her happy barks as she does a little dance of anticipation.
This is my favorite time of year for a morning walk, when the days are short and the sun is low in the southern sky. As we set out, the neighborhood rooster sends a cock-a-doodle-do across the cold, clear air. Lucy, nose to the ground, sorts out what creatures have passed in the night and leaves some clues of her own. My nose can only make out the occasional perfume of a skunk. Happily, we have never met one.
At first light, the earth and sky seem flat, lifeless. Then, suddenly and silently the peak of Mount Wrightson catches the sun’s first rays, and within minutes, the whole mountain is painted in shades of pink, lavender, pearly grey, and sometimes smokey blue. It’s never the same and I always feel a sense of awe. No matter the ills of the world, the sun on Mount Wrightson offers some hope.
Then the grasslands take on a mystical shade of gold, a color that must come from some mixture of high altitude horizontal light, the color and quantity of dry grasses and an overlay of effervescence that sifts through it all. Before I can quite take it all in, the early light chases the hillside shadows away, sending streams of gold across the ridge tops.
Somewhere in this changing light, comes the sound of ravens. When I walk along the wash, the common ravens converse from tree branches where they may have spent the night. On other mornings, I see and here a “conspiracy” of them heading from some eastern roosting place towards town. I think these must be the more socialized Chihuahua ravens. These corvids with their strange croaks and rasping voices, the whirring sound of air moving through their feathers as the fly, sets them apart from other birds. Even when I can’t see them, I love to hear their sounds. The Haida Indians in British Columbia believed that a raven created the earth, but also imagined them as tricksters because of their wily ways. In the summer, I miss them. When they come back, after the vultures have gone, I am always delighted. They are mythical, marvelous creatures — part of what gets me out the door in the cold first light.
As the sun climbs a bit more, Lucy and I head home. I watch the shadows of a very tall woman and a long-legged dog keeping pace with us. They feel like good friends, part of the morning light show.