I love walking at dawn. These days you have to wake up really early to do that, but since I’m naturally a morning person, and June in particular sets me stirring with the birds, I’ve had the pleasure of watching the sun rise many times over the past month.
I do love watching the progress of dawn upon a clear sky, that incremental brightening until the sun tips over the horizon and levels its first direct rays at you. A morning with a full cloud cover does not hold the same splendor.
But a partly cloudy sunrise can be just as enchanting, the same way sunsets are improved by clouds around to catch the departing light on their undersides.
One morning last week I woke up around 4:30 AM and was disappointed to see a thick gray sky, but then looking east I saw breaks in the clouds with patches of clear sky, which held promise.
I walked to Quissett Harbor and then along the southern shore of the Knob. There were two distinct sets of clouds: a low, fast-moving, foggy gray strata, and then above that huge, dense, immobile cumulus clouds. The low bank in the east obscured the rising sun from the viewer on the ground, but the cumulus clouds were vantaged high enough in the west to catch the sunrise unobstructed, their tops lighting an intense pink.
I was full of the beauty of it as I headed west along the shore towards the Knob’s pinnacle. When I arrived, two young men were coming down the steps. The first held a Gatorade bottle and walked with an unsteady gait. He was clearly up at dawn because he’d been up all night drinking.
“Beautiful morning,” I said enthusiastically.
The first man looked at me a bit incredulous. And the second man said, “Wish I could see the sun.”
“But the clouds are beautiful,” I said, guessing they had been staring east and not turned around to see the towering pink clouds in the west, which, by now, had faded considerably.
At the top of the Knob a family was clustered facing east; a mother, father, several children, perhaps a few cousins.
I tried my greeting again: “Beautiful morning.”
“Too bad the clouds are in the way,” the dad said.
Stepping up on the rocks to face out over Buzzards Bay, I turned back towards them with a sudden thought to share.
“You know that Tolstoy line?” I said. “’Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ Sunrises without clouds are always the same; every sunrise with clouds is different in its own way.”
The mother, who seemed to know the line, smiled. She then remarked on the surface of the ocean, how beautiful and smooth it was this windless morning.
I departed down to the northern beach, its lone inhabitant. The ocean was indeed so beautiful: a strangely vibrant grey, a kind of charcoal-aqua color. Without waves and without direct light reflecting off its surface, I could see deep beneath the calm water — the lightness of the open swathes of sand, the darkness of the rocky patches.
It wasn’t a warm morning. But standing there at the edge of the sea I felt certain that if I didn’t get in that water, I would regret it the rest of my life. Pandemics have a way of heightening this urge to seize the day.
I swam far out from shore, the terns diving around me.
Ms. Saito is a former Enterprise reporter.