Early Birds

The Shulchan Aruch begins with the words, “Strengthen yourself like a lion to arise in the morning to serve your Creator; he should wake up the dawn…” (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim a).

I don’t know about the “serve your Creator” part, but people in rural Maine certainly do “wake up the dawn.”

I was playing phone tag with our excavating contractor.  The last time, he left a message saying, “The best time to reach me is between 4 and 4:30.”  But when I called at that time, he didn’t answer.

After several days of this back-and-forth, we made contact.  When I chided him that I had called at the time he had specified and he wasn’t there, he said, “I meant between 4 and 4:30 A.M.!”

He wasn’t kidding.  People in Maine start their day very early.  Since most people here have jobs that keep them outdoors (excavators, loggers, builders, etc), they want to make the most of their day, especially since the days are so short in fall and winter months.  In the spring, the swarms of biting, stinging blackflies, deerflies, mosquitoes, and no-see-ums are ferocious, but less so in the early hours.  Finishing one’s workday by 3 p.m. also leaves plenty of time for fishing and hunting.  Most stores around here are open from 6 or 7 a.m. until 4 p.m.  The only stores in the larger towns besides supermarkets that are open until 9 pm are the outlet centers – but those are geared for tourists.

It’s extremely bad etiquette to call people in rural Maine after 8 p.m.  Because they rise so early, people are often in bed by 8:30 or 9 p.m.

It is worth staying up late at night, however. There are simply no words to convey the wonders of the heavens after dark.  Because we are so far from city lights, the darkness of Rosh Chodesh (new moon) is truly pitch black.  The Milky Way looms above us, and the constellations, planets, and satellites are vivid.  On many occasions I’ve seen shooting stars from my windows, without even having to step outdoors.  On those nights when there is a full moon, the light is so luminous one doesn’t need a flashlight when walking outdoors.  Moonshadows are distinct, and paths are bright.

This morning  the planet Venus shone brightly from my bedroom window.  For all you sleepyheads who might otherwise miss the breaking of dawn, I’ve posted these photos.

6:02 a.m. click on photo to see Venus in upper right corner

6:06 a.m. Trees barely visible at bottom of photo; Venus in upper right corner (click to enlarge)

6:12 a.m. (click to enlarge to see Venus, upper right corner)

6:17 am. (click to enlarge to see Venus)

6:26 a.m. Even thought it's getting light now, Venus still shines brightly (click to enlarge)

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