Monday, January 9, 2017

First light of the first day of 2017.


I usually host a New Year's Day party each year with my wife. Now that I'm separated, that didn't feel like the right thing to do. Besides my downtown apartment is too small. A friend suggested we see the sun rise at New Smirna Beach. The alarm went off at 5am and we were driving east by 6am. Thankfully there is just one country road that winds the whole way. The sky gradually grew lighter as we drove through farm country. Fog settled into the low lying fields and glowed a rich yellow punctuated by stately palms. As the sky got brighter, I got nervous that we might miss the first sliver of sun light. A long gentle incline up a causeway bridge opened up our view to the horizon. The sun had not peaked out yet.

The streets near the beach were deserted. We found a parking spot in front of Flagler Tavern, and then scrambled to get lawn chairs and sketching supplies ready. Runners in pink were beginning to assemble and register for a race in the beach side park. As soon as we sat down in the beach chairs, the first sliver of sun poked out above clouds at the horizon. A couple embraced in front of us while others shot cell phone photos. I documented the moment with a quick digital painting. We took a selfie holding up the January 1st Orlando Sentinel as we squinted into the morning light .

We spent most of the day relaxing on the beach, watching sand pipers as they raced down to the surf's edge and then back when the sliver of water rushed up onto the shore. They pecked incessantly, looking for tasty morsels just below the wet sand surface. Sea gulls would have angry aerial battles as they fought for crumbs of bread thrown up by tourists. Two seagulls became entangled in flight over a crumb, and they hit the hard sand with a thud. They shook it off and were back in flight in an instant to fight again. When the bread ran out they all stood on the mirror of wet sand looking stately and calm. They all faced the sun as if in deep Zen meditation.

A family strolled on the beach in front of us. The toddler was helping his dad by pushing the red wagon in the sand. His chubby legs moved with determination, he kept his head down watching every step. A heavy set bearded man stood and addressed the family. He was to far away for me to hear what he said. The teenage boy had on a wet suit and the man walked with him out into the waves. They spoke for a short while and then the boy held his nose. The man tipped him over backwards into an on coming wave. It was a baptism. Three others followed in quick succession followed by cheers from the onlooking family. A young girl who had bright neon red hair was dressed all in white. She gave the pastor a high five as she came back out of the surf. Another woman hugged him after screaming from the sudden plunge into the cold. The hug may have been affection, or a need for warmth.


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