Before Sunrise

“…Acacia?” An unfamiliar voice cuts into my dreams, thick Spanish accent disorienting in the darkness.  I snap to consciousness.  “Are you awake?”

“Mm… “ I groan, rolling over in my sleeping bag.  “Barely.”

“It is five-thirty now.  I can show you the way to the cliffs, now, if you want.”

I force my eyes open and the interior of my tent comes into focus around me, hardly visible in the pre-dawn light.  I lay sprawled, alone, in a mass of half-open sleeping bag, camera gear, and waterproof sacks spilling clothes and sunscreen across the tent floor.  My skin is still sticky with salt; a thin sprinkling of sand seems to coat everything in sight.

This is the life, I think, and slip out into the morning world.

We are camped in a seaside canyon of white limestone.  Out on the sea, the horizon line gleams a faint pink, which even in its dimmest glow illuminates the stone walls with a soft lavender gleam.  My hair is wild and thick with salt and sun; I pull it from my face and lace my shoes in the cool morning air.  Hasselblad.  Tripod.  Daniel leads me up the cliff.

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We trek, first, straight up the canyon wall, its rough, sandy surface providing so much traction that handholds aren’t even needed.  Cresting the upper edge, I am led through a rocky desert landscape of cactus, gnarled trees and rugged-looking shrubs, their leaves giving off a silvery sheen.  We move towards the sea.

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“Down here, I think, would be good,” Daniel suggests, gesturing towards the open ocean.  Within moments, we are standing on the edge of a vast clifftop plateau of white rock, stretching almost endlessly along the coastline.  Its rough, textured surface, full of shells, glows a soft pink like some otherworldly moonscape that drops into an expanse of ocean.  Daniel leaves, and I am alone in this stillness of dawn, this surreal world of white rock and warm air and neverending sea.  I photograph on the cliffs as the world is bathed in ever-intensifying shades of magenta, and finally, in the golden light of sunrise.

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We are finally, as my mother says, “in touch with life” – an interesting statement considering our complete removal from modern society.  We are living outside, again.  Traveling, moving camp, paddling kayaks along these rocky coastlines alive with brilliant shades of earthy red, the ocean a rainbow of blues and vibrant greens.  As darkness falls at camp, the near-full moon rising high into a starry sky, I pitch my tent a little deeper into the canyon, a little distance from the rest of the group.  I do not remember camping alone before.  At night I stare up at the blazing stars, alone, breathing the warm desert air, listening to the music of the waves.  I sleep the deepest sleep, dreaming the most vivid dreams.  There is peace, and stillness.  In the mornings I awake before dawn and feel the quietness of the world begin to lift; the landscape comes to life.  Now, I think, I am remembering what it is to be truly living.

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