Summer Solstice-why it’s worth getting up at 3:45am

Solstice 2014-One Empty Shelf’s early morning adventure

When both of my alarms go off simultaneously, shrill, electronic beeping permeating into the stillness of slumber, I cringe inwardly. My eyes won’t open, and my arm flails for a moment too long before mercifully finding the snooze button. The cat nestles in the crook of my knees, circular and warm, paws twitching with a feline dream. My husband breathes, regular, face relaxed, comfortable under the duvet. I experience the momentary disorientation that accompanies being wrenched from sleep-where am I, why on earth am I awake, what day is it…you know the feeling. In the microseconds following, I decide this adventure is a no-go, bed is too tempting. I fall back into a comfortable doze.Solstice sunrise

The snooze button beeps again and I screw my face up and finally open my eyes fully. It’s 3:45 am. If I don’t get out of bed now, it’s another year to wait. I force myself to throw back the duvet and the chill morning air envelops me. Instead of being unpleasant, it’s surprisingly invigorating. I’m awake now, although still bleary-eyed. I throw on some jeans and an old hoody and pad quietly downstairs to make a flask of earl grey.

It’s the 21st June 2014, the summer solstice, and I’m off for an early morning adventure. Up early enough to watch the sun rise, then awake late enough to watch it set. A very small adventure, to be sure, but an experience to remember for a long time. It’s surprisingly light, even at this time, and I worry a little that the sun has already risen. I re-check Google and am reassured the sun will rise in the capital at 4:40 am. I’ve got half an hour to go, no problems.

I pocket an apple and bring my hot flask, along with camera and smart phone, just in case of battery problems. Stepping outside, the stillness hits me, a cool, summery breeze, pastel sky, a cacophony of birdsong. I feel embraced into this world, enveloped into the dawn and into a special time, before technology, before the human world really awakens. My feet are silent on the flagstones. I reluctantly head to my car-next time I’ll leave enough time to walk, I promise to myself silently.

Solstice sunrise 2The engine makes a racket, juxtaposed against the serene backdrop of the early morning. The motor noise echoes against the stone houses, and I pull away, off up the hill, hoping I haven’t woken anyone.

I reach my spot in a few minutes and pull into a lay-by next to the country lane. Mud and gravel makes a quiet crunch under the tyres, and I come to rest in an inevitable pothole. Never mind. I step out of the car and softly close the door. I turn, and my eyes drink in the view. I’m pretty irreligious but I’ve always felt a connection to the idea of celebrating solstice, the turning points of the year. I feel it’s important to connect to nature and to celebrate and look after it, no matter how it came into being.

Breathing the fresh morning air into my lungs and greedily opening my eyes to the beautiful scene before me, my head feels clear and I feel connected to the world. No-one else is about and all I can hear is birdsong, calls and answers, treetops and hedges. An inquisitive magpie hops in the middle of the lane, unperturbed by the surroundings- all is calm, all is quiet. A deep, molten red glow peeps through the few clouds scattered on the horizon, hinting at what is to come. The skies are otherwise clear, huge, massive, stretching overhead and all around, an expanse of light, soft blue. I try to relax my gaze to fit even more into my view. It’s astonishing. Solstice sunrise 3

The horizon brightens every second, and at 4:37 am, a few minutes earlier than the capital, the sun peeps over the distant hills, bringing that familiar bright gold, that flare of light, brighter than anything else. I look to the side-no longer can I gaze directly at the scene. I take photos and watch and wait and revel in the morning.

It’s beautiful. I feel so very lucky.

The owner of the one large, beautiful house behind me (what a place to live, what a view) leaves for work, the first sign that the world is starting to wake. When up early, I always feel just a slight tinge of regret as people start to go about their daily lives, as if the moment is somehow shattered, intruded with the first of a thousand voices, noise, dirt, clamour. The silence of an early dawn is healing, contemplative, restorative. The noise of his car engine fades into the distance and I’m left alone again, a blackbird singing, as though just to me.

It’s so easy to close our eyes and press the snooze button. It’s so tempting to take the effortless option and wake with that slight feeling of missing out on something special. It’s an effort to get up, to go out, to turn off the tv, to move.

It’s hard to make an effort. But the rewards come back tenfold.

I made a little video below-apologies for the shaky camera and bad focus! It was pretty early 😉

Music is Deepest Blue (Jon Hopkins mix)