Gently comes my God some days
Gently wakens me
Gentle breath upon my soul
Fills me with serenity
As the sun rises over these pyramids,
Does it warm the fourteen hundred below
And rouse them from their collective sleep?
Crowded there, do some still swap tales of the Seminole
And debate the merits of their cause?
Do some bow their heads in prayer? Do some weep?
My walk this morning has led me to Marine Street, which I take north till it ends at Bridge Street. At that intersection, I pause to decide whether to turn east toward the harbor or west toward the Lincolnville district, each direction a pleasant walk with its own distinct merits. As always, while waiting for some sign to make my choice, I am drawn to the concrete wall that faces me and encloses the grounds at Number 15 on the north side of Bridge Street. It is a high wall, six feet or so; ornate and old – blackened-with-moss old; wood-rotting, red-paint-peeling-door old. Flora, no longer tended, tests its boundaries. This side of the door, flowers have escaped the confines of their pots and have breached the straight edges of the red and white bricked entry way. From the other side, a few pink hibiscus flowers on a couple of rogue flag-pole straight branches make their debut, and a lone vine slithers over the wall’s top.
Something influences me to turn left toward the water today and I do. Ahead, I can see oranges and yellows mixing in the eastern sky with the sun just now beginning its rise over Anastasia Island across the bay. The winds are light, so if I am lucky when I reach the sea wall, the sailboats and their masts will be reflected in the still harbor waters, always a delightful sight at the end to a good morning walk.
Still, I wonder – as I wonder each time after turning this way or the other upon reaching Bridge Street – what would have happened had I first crossed to the other side of the road and tried the latch on that old red gate door; and what would have happened had the latch clicked and I pushed on the door and it actually opened; and what would I have seen on the other side of that gate then?
There is a brief moment, just as the sun rises above the houses across Marine Street and mixes with the last of night’s shadows, that the grave markers in the St. Augustine National Cemetery display their age before donning their regulation white.
Here is the Seven A.M. Harbor Report: There is currently an almost slack, incoming tide with light winds out of the northwest and some cloud cover that will clear later this morning. The water and air temperatures are both at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Aside from water slapping against hulls and the unpeopled docks and the occasional splash of a fish, the marina is quiet. The sun has cleared the horizon, freshening the starboard sides of the moored sailboats at the harbor’s southern end. Two pelicans land in untroubled waters near the lead schooner there, and one is filled with a sense of peaceful confidence that all is as it should be.
Is mirrored in pastel waters,
While unhurried musings drift
Toward the creek’s final bend.
I am a break-of-day photographer who lives at the edge of land in St. Augustine, Florida. Since moving here, I have become drawn to moored sailboats in our small harbors that open into the vastness of the Atlantic. My attraction is related to a notion I have of man’s boundless curiosity that has historically driven him to undertake dangerous, far-ranging seagoing adventures.
The best time to capture this mood with my camera, I have learned, is during the brief period before and after the sun rises on days of partly clear skies and gentle winds. The sun’s light is not blindingly bright then, and its position is low, horizontal to objects on the water and beneath the clouds, resulting in deepened colors, highlighted shadows, long reflections in still waters, and, when I am lucky, an arresting photo.
Only one car passed me going the other way on Charlotte Street as I walked gingerly along the narrow, unevenly-bricked lane, navigating the numerous puddles from the rain earlier that morning. Because there wasn’t a sidewalk, I had to edge toward the side of the road and lean against a building, where I managed to avoid any spray from the passing vehicle. Alone again, I brushed off the back of my pants where they had touched the cold damp stone and pushed on, eventually making out the gallery up ahead, which was illuminated by the sun rising in the now cloudless sky to my left.
If I had to choose, I would take the ketch, which is moored farther away from me toward the bay’s eastern shore, for I am partial to the lines of older boats and especially so to two-masted ones. But – honestly? – any one of them would suit my purpose at this particular moment.
On at least one star-filled morning each month, I can be found elbow-supported, wooden-railing leaning at the end of the Lighthouse Pier where I gaze toward the sand-duned line along the southernmost end of Salt Run. There, by the light of a sun that has yet to crest those sandy ridges, night’s quiet transformation into day occurs so swiftly that my brain can but register its changes as stop motion animation: changes in the sky where yellow intrudes upon dark charcoals, diluting them into steely blues; changes that brighten and polish smooth patches of water so that channel markers and mooring floats might reflect upon their states; and changes that shear night’s veil guarding a secured ketch till the boat’s emerging beauty seduces me once again.