still life: 4:30 a.m.
still life: 4:30 a.m.
I get up at 4:30 a.m. most days. The first thing I do is throw on a sweatshirt and go outside. It's bitter cold out these days, but I find the coldest days produce the greatest sights in the sky. 4:30 a.m. is a great time to be out. The stars are incredibly clear. It is quiet, so quiet that when the train blows by the Bellmore station about 8 miles away, I can hear the horn blow. I can hear squirrels rustling through the trees and someone's garbage can lid being scraped down the street by the wind.
There are very few lights on in the surrounding houses. Not many of my neighbors are up at this hour, and for a few moments, I feel like I own the world. I walk around the yard, and head into my aunt's garden next door. There are statues in her garden, angels and mermaids and odd shaped animals and sometimes, in that early morning fog of thought, I wonder if I am dreaming or really standing outside.
Today I look up and see a huge, full moon. White, thin clouds move behind it and the light of the moon causes the clouds to become luminescent. As the clouds move, they give the illusion that the moon is racing across the sky. I remember when I was young and thought this to be true, that the moon moved with the clouds, the stars chasing it an stellar game of tag. I watch this scene until my neck hurts from looking up. By now the sky is getting a little lighter and the birds are starting to wake.
The suburbs where I live is still lush with trees. On the perimeters of the blocks, on the main roads, the trees are mostly gone. But here, in the nest of houses clustered together, the trees still stand. They are huge and foreboding in this light, their bare branches reaching out to the sky. The shadows make them seem a bit frightening, and when the squirrels bounce on the branches and make the trees shake, it looks as if those limbs are admonishing the squirrels for waking the tree.
I am in awe of those trees and the regal way in which they watch over our land. How long must those trees have been here to be that tall, that thick? They were here before the houses, before the land shifted from woodland to homeland. I wonder if they are angry at what has become of their forest. Then again, they only look angry at this hour, in this season. In the summer afternoons, with children climbing their branches and exploring the hidden forts the leaves make, the trees seem happier.
When it gets too cold to stay out anymore, when my breath makes long trails of steam in the air, I walke back through the garden, avoiding the stares of the angels and mermaids, and pause by my door. I point my camera at the sky, trying to capture 4:30 a.m. the way it looks in my mind. The moon, the clouds, the flickering stars, the statues and trees that seem to possess souls. I know it will never look on film the way it looks in my head. Nothing ever does.