The dawn was cold and crisp.  Although the temperatures have been above freezing during the day, they still dip into the teens and twenties at night.  The multiple inches of snow on the lake have melted and frozen many days in a row, and what snow remains is only an inch or two deep on the lake.  The sunrise was an explosion of color greeting the day, and some of those brights were reflected in a portion of snow-free ice on the lake.  I am always energized after sharing in the beauty of a dawn like this.

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There’s a delicious quiet that permeates dawn when the ground is covered with snow and the temperature hovers at 15 below zero.  The rest of the world is slumbering and keeping warm.  But the dawn awakens with a pink and orange glow on the far horizon, slowly trying to chase the waning moon from its low position in the sky.  The dawn’s light gradually becomes brighter and the moon’s light fades.  Sunlight is short this morning as the clouds move in after a couple of hours, followed by rising temperatures above zero and then snow blows across the landscape.  The beauty and quiet of dawn seems a distant memory.

Lake como dawn 13853_StaatsYesterday’s cool rain cleared overnight, but left pockets of fog in some of the low-lying areas.  The stars came out with the promise of sunshine today.  I was up before dawn this morning and went to Lake Como.  The air was still — no wind to form ripples or waves across the lake, and the fog that was expected hadn’t settled in over the water.  Gradually the dawn sky was growing lighter.  The canoes and kayaks that are available for rent rested in place on the dock, waiting for today’s patrons.  The peace and quiet were a welcome relief from the busyness and crowds that are a short mile away converging on the Minnesota State fairgrounds.

Daybreak in the cornfield_StaatsI woke up in the dark the other morning, crawled out of bed, slipped on my shorts, T-shirt, and hiking boots and headed out the door with my camera.  I’ve replayed this scenario so many times over the years.  About 10 years ago I was living in Washington and would drive to Mount Rainier to see the sun rise over the mountains.  Now I’m in Minnesota and I drive a few blocks and I’m walking through fields of tasseled corn, the temperature already at 80 degrees.  In both instances I’m aware of so much more than the view in front of me.  There are smells (whether of towering firs and cedars or agriculture fields) and there are sounds (of the creeks and streams that flow from the melting snow or the wind blowing through the corn and giving the geese thermals to float on).  No matter where, there is so much that comes to life as the sun crests the horizon and the day breaks.  The smoke from the wildfires in the west has drifted our way, giving our sunrises and sunsets a deeper shade of red and orange.  This early-morning-time is ripe with the promise of the day (and the adventures) ahead.

Dawn at Como 0354_StaatsThe past week was cold and wintry.  It seemed that we had a clipper blow through every day, dropping a couple of inches of snow, then moving on.  That meant daily shoveling (oh yeah!) and lots of overcast days with gray skies.  But one morning I woke up, looked to the east, and thought there might be some clearing skies and a beautiful sunrise.  I quickly dressed, covered up in multiple layers, and ventured out into the cold early dawn to Como Park.  Best part was that I wasn’t disappointed.  The thin layer of clouds to the east allowed the sun to reflect its brilliant colors onto the sky and it became of palette of beautiful hues.  As quickly as the colors of the dawn reached its crescendo, it likewise disappeared to the brightness of a sunny day, all reflected in the snow covering the ground.

Morning frost PS2341_StaatsI looked out the window this morning and saw crystal-like snowflakes dancing in the sunlight.  They sparkled and glistened as they drifted to the ground.  It reminded me of this image from the past week.  Our nights have been cold, and the other morning I went out to my car to go to work; insert key, start engine, and wait for the car to warm up.  But as I sat in the driver’s seat I looked out the front windshield and “saw” the most beautiful sight.  The morning’s frost had settled on the glass, and as the light of the day (and the street lamp) shined through the window it was all refracted through the crystals of frost.  The trees became abstract and a beautiful mosaic was created with the light and the early morning colors of the sky.

With a weekend full of activities that already included an art exhibit reception, a 40-mile bike ride, and a baseball game, we decided to head out early this morning for some peace and quiet on a local lake.  We had hoped to be on the lake as the sun was rising, but Mother Nature had other plans and the dawn began overcast and cloudy.  As we launched our canoe we had the entire lake to ourselves, surrounded by the special stillness and quiet that is reserved for the earliest times of the morning.  The lake was calm and we paddled near a shoreline that was lined with cattails and had lily pads floating nearby.  As I looked at the lake surface and the reflection I felt like I was looking at a sheet of music with staff lines and notes placed in a pattern that was meant to be played and interpreted.  Perhaps it was a prelude to the day that was just beginning — a time of wonder and calm when all the world seems still and all you have to do for the next hour or so is relax in your canoe, paddle on the lake, and enjoy the hours as they quietly develop.