Autumn Sunrises

Starting the Day

I’ve been seeing more sunrises than usual this season. For some reason, I’ve been waking early, when it’s still dark outside. Unable to get back to sleep, I get up, eat, get washed and dressed, decide what camera and lens combination I want to carry, what writing gear to pack, and head out before sunrise.

I like walking in the morning. My routine begins by stepping out the front door and smelling the air. Living in the Eastern Woodlands means lots of leaves on the ground — maple, birch, and oak, primarily, mixed with ash, locust, serviceberry, and the elephant ears from one huge catalpa tree. I breathe in the pungent smell of decomposing leaves and feel a whisper of cool air across my face as I begin walking, the street light catching silhouetted robins in the ditches running this way and that, fuelling up for the next leg of their migration.

In the near distance, an early GO train pulls into the station to whisk commuters into the city. I notice that my insoles squeak slightly — squeak, squick, squeak, squick. A neighbourhood cat pauses at the sound, interrupting its inscrutable journey, watching me without expression as I pass by.

I pass through the GO Station tunnel, dodging passengers who are late and dashing for the escalator. The tracks bisect the neigbourhood just north of the station from Port Credit village proper and I must walk through the passenger tunnel or take a long detour to the west where Stavebank Road crosses the tracks.

There’s a little coffee shop tucked inside the station that dispenses caffeine, treats, bottled water, magazines, and cigarettes. I wave to the owners, and sometimes chat with them. We have a bond. When I worked in the city I bought coffee from them every day, and by coincidence the husband and I were in nearby rooms at Trillium hospitial, having bypass operations at the same time. I got to know him, his wife, and their daughter during our convalescence. I often check to see how he’s doing. Fine. Always fine. He takes his daily workouts seriously. He attends an exercise program at Square One. I prefer walking to the harbour and back.

The train station is also a major bus hub and I pass by a line of lit-up buses, stopping briefly at a newsbox to pick up two copies of Metro, a free newspaper. Marion and I will do the crossword and sudoku later. On the whole, the people waiting for the buses are less well dressed than those who take the train, and look both harder and less confident. Several are smoking under the No Smoking signs. They take the bus because they don’t own a car.

As I clear the bus bays, I walk by a cluster of older apartment buildings that have stood in this section of Port Credit since at least the mid-70’s, when I first saw them. Most of them are older than that. A few old houses remain. One is a dentist’s office, and just beyond it I take the steep path that leads to the Cenotaph memorial. Two very attractive stone churches face the street on the other side of the road, one with an old cemetery. They both back onto the park beside the Credit River.

I cross over and walk beside them on Stavebank until I reach the corner, then walk downhill into the park, beside the public library. I can see glimpses of the harbour from here. It’s still half an hour until sunrise, but a pinkish glow is forming on the horizon and the clouds look promising. When I reach the river, I uncap my camera and slow down. Upriver I see a couple of crews rowing.

As soon as I approach the path that passes under the bridges, the mallards and Canada geese spot me and begin drifting in my direction, creating V-waves on the surface of the river. People feed them scraps, sometimes to entertain their children, sometimes just to feel connected to something. I say hi to everyone I meet there, and the accent rarely comes back Canadian.

At this time of day I’m the only one on the path. Fishing season is over. I emerge at the far side of the underpass and take my first look. Astonishing. I take this walk nearly every day, and never does it look exactly the same. Sometimes the differences are dramatic, other times subtle. Today is subtle: a band of grey clouds against an otherwise clear, pink sky.

I try various spots to find the best composition for today’s sunrise, and notice the gulls beginning to circle around the end of the pier. It’s their territory, but like the nearby Starbucks, it’s so popular there’s competition for seating. I have my little Panasonic FZ35 superzoom P&S with me today. Good. I need the long reach and the stabilization to deal with the low light. I keep composing until a gestalt “clicks” in my head. Yes, this is the one for today.

Patience. Missed another good swirl. Anticipate. Squeeze the shutter release. Hold the camera steady. Release the breath slowly. Not even stabilization will help if I don’t hold the cam as still as possible. There. There. Again. Once more. Again. I check the images. Two frames look good in miniature, so I leave, hoping one of them will capture the feeling I had watching the gulls and ducks in this sublime light.

The rest is routine. I climb the steps leading from the pier and walk across the pedestrian bridge. It too provides a good view of harbour sunrises and I take a few shots on the way across. Then a short walk across the street to Starbucks. The baristas and I know each other by name, and we banter a bit. I take a big mug of Pike Place to a small table, set up my computer, and start my morning’s writing session.

3 thoughts on “Autumn Sunrises

  1. Nice way to take advantage of Indian Summer, Gene. I wonder if a sense that this might be the last day you could take a leisurely walk (as opposed to a quick, chilly one) led you to be more reflective about the experience. Certainly a nice record of a slice of the creative process.


  2. Great photo. We get the best sunrises this time of year as well. And with the time change I can actually enjoy them at a decent time of the morning. Enjoy!

  3. Dave, it certainly has been beautiful weather, hasn’t it? You may be right about the timing. It just kind of welled out of me without much thinking about it.

    Matt, indeed! We can meet them at a more civilized hour 🙂

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