the magnificence of early morning

When I was six years old I discovered an iron chain and wood plank swing that hung from high in a massive pine tree on Lake Vermilion.

It was a quarter mile away from our cabin, at the old Birch Point Inn resort.

The swing creaked when you got it really swinging........

All my life what I've valued most was freedom.

When I was six I discovered that I could leave the cabin very early and walk the trail along the water's edge all the way to the resort, to the swing, alone.

I would get dressed in my jeans, my navy blue sneakers, a t shirt, and my navy blue hooded Boundary Waters Canoe Area thermal jacket.

I'd grab a homemade chocolate chip cookie...maybe two..from my mother's cookie jar in the kitchen.

I'd make sure the screen door didn't slam.

I'd walk the narrow path of tangled tree roots along the water's edge, the dew heavy on the birch leaves, the birds beginning to sing, the Sun coming up on the Eastern shore towards the town of Tower.

I'd see the Heron fly in to begin his day of fishing.

 The couple who owned the resort would be up working already.

The woman made homemade cinnamon rolls in the big lodge kitchen.

I could see her working from my vantage point on the swing.

The man would be down at the lagoon getting fishing boats ready for his guests.

I would swing as the Sun came up over Big Bay.

I was watching for the Light to hit the water this one certain way I had caught once by accident but now I was trying to catch it on purpose.

I'd swing and I'd hope that no clouds would come.

Clouds would wreck it.

But if it stayed clear, the Sun would get up to a certain point and suddenly there would be a mind blowing explosion of dazzling sparkles on the water.

The water would light up like diamonds, like fireworks, like silver sequins hit with a whole bunch of really bright stage lights.

Those were things I knew about later, but when I was six I had no reference for the magnificence of the early morning.

The swing was a destination like no other.

To me it seemed private because I never saw anyone else swinging on it.

It was large and serious, not a kiddie swing at all, and seemingly intended for one solitary dreamer.

It was safe, it was beautiful, it was mine.

I remember the day my mother said, "Courtney, Mrs. Burgess says you've been coming down to the lodge every morning at like six a.m., is that true?"

Two things, one is that I really didn't realize she didn't know, and also, I really didn't realize that Mrs. Burgess did know.

"She says that swing squeaks. You're waking people up. I told her I had no idea. You shouldn't be doing that. It isn't safe. I told her it couldn't be you, walking down there all alone."

I don't remember answering.

I know I kept going to the swing, and eventually I had to make a pact with my mother and Mrs. Burgess that I wouldn't start swinging before six in the morning.

I guess sometimes I'd get down there at like five thirty.

Weirdly, as I'm writing this to you I'm realizing it's five fifty in the morning.

I'm an early riser if left to my own devices.

I want to go to bed when it gets dark and wake up when the Sun is just beginning to come up over the water.

I hope someday I'll live on water again.

I live in the city now but I'm so lucky to have the Minnehaha Creek nearby, and the Falls, and the grand Mississippi River trail.

I'm so lucky to be nearly sixty and still be alive, still be healthy, still be able to get up this early and head out to see the Sun make the water light up on the river.

Oh my God, how lucky.

I hope you have a day of magnificence however that manifests for you.






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