When I lived on the Oregon Coast (no, this is NOT another Oregon story), my first leanings of the morning were to beat the rest of the beach walkers out to the rugged sands.
I wanted my tracks to be first along the watery streamlets that led back into the ocean. I wanted my view of the sunrise over the Three Arch Rocks to be one no one had witnessed before. And, I wanted to synch my tone of the day to the crash of the waves as they swallowed the sands, then slowly returned the specks to their rightful place. And when those three elements fell into place, I knew I was home.
And so it is, here, in the city, a half-block from Washington Park. Fall settled in last night, with the splash of rain, and as I walk the dog towards the park early dawn, the emptiness both startles and excites me.
Do I feel safe, I am often asked. And I answer, Of course. Why would I be here, if I didn’t feel safe?
I enter behind the main stage of the park, for the past week obscured by towering white tents. I am still meaning to speak to management about the endless days of white tents that many functions produce, limiting the time to enjoy the park, as, well, just a park. But, for the park to last, I understand management must raise money, to replace grass, to tend to the buds in early spring, to maintain the sprayground for the countless youngsters who will soon be approaching city and school buses, for the days of recess and lunch, and possibly some learning too.
I stand, out in the middle of the oval, looking upon Music Hall to the west, and realize, that Music Hall has become my Three Arch Rocks. My beacon, my guide. I see the purplish blush of morning slowly creeping up over the gables. I turn clockwise and counter, and break into a broad smile. I am alone in the park this morning to take in the heralding of the morning at my back, over centuries of Italianate homes, and the hill of corporate quarters.
I have landed before park maintenance sporting their bright yellow polos. I have arrived before the men of City Gospel Mission make their way to a bench in the park. I have disembarked before the dog walkers, runners, and H. who sits on his stoop. I have heard my own footsteps before the beeps of the backhoes and clanging of constructions workers on the streetcar line destroy the silence. I will, in later years, cherish the clang, clang of the streetcar over the construction clamor.
My son tells me I take too many pictures of Music Hall. He has forgotten about my stores of Three Arch Rocks photos, at sunrise and sunset. Many of them I sent back home to parents, via snail mail. Many I placed in Davis’ baby book – there are more photos of the rocks, than of Davis. Many simply disappeared.
But I always knew, if I witnessed those rocks and their rise, their battering, I too could withstand the torrents of life that would later be thrown my way.
And while Over-the-Rhine and Washington Park are not quite the ocean and the coast, they have become my inspiration in the morning. Many may have referred to identifying such beacons as one’s True North. But for me, my touchpoints were True West.
Perhaps that was imprinted upon me, those days on the coast, where the wind, the sun (we were on a cliffside) and the rain always came from the West. Or even earlier, chasing the sunsets over Lake Erie, because as kids were never up early enough to catch it rise.
Or maybe some of us are born with their internal compass pointing west, while others are born with a compass pointing towards the North Pole, east, south, or no direction at all.
For me, early morning, I am in an enviable position to watch the many faces of Music Hall, as she yawns and wakes to the day. I witness the homeless person squirm in his bed of concrete as he hears the jingles of the dog collar. I achieve peace through synchronizing my day to the ringing of the church bells, even if I note the bells are minutes off Apple time.
How lucky that I have found another of my life’s True West.
* Obviously, not one of my better photos, but I was too busy enjoying the morning to care!