By Roger Barbee
We have a bay window in our family room that faces northeast across our back. In it is an old oak table I found covered with lawn mower parts in the mid 1990s and over a summer I brought it back to use. That table has held many cups of coffee and heard much conversation with or without a meal.
At that table is where one or both of us sit to drink morning coffee, read, ponder, and watch the day come. The view is a fine 180-degreed one of Powell Mountain way to the right, then the corn crib, followed by a long, open space all the way to the neighbor's house, the workshop, and finally over to the left, our woods. This view offers a changing one each morning that, no matter the time, always pleases.
Because Nolan, the Shenandoah black and tan hound rose early this morning, so did I. It was too early and too dark to let him run loose, so I walked him while letting the other, better-behaved dogs run in the early chill. Grumpy, I got them all back into the house and settled in for their morning nap.Two shared the sofa, one claimed the Morris chair, and the last curled on the ottoman. Wrapped in a dark cloud of self-pity due to being up so early, even for me, I got a cup of coffee, cut off all lights, and sat at the old table looking out. Before long my mood changed.
Because of the early fall chill, I did not open the window next to me, but just sat there with Hooper, the rescued black shed cat, on my lap. It was not too long before I noticed a glow behind Powell Mountain that stretched all the way beyond the neighbor's house toward the north horizon. No breeze stirred any turning leaf as Hooper and I sat surrounded by the breaking of morning and sleeping dogs.
Since the window was closed, there was no sound, just what I could see. As if witnessing a watercolorist at work, I watched what Homer in "The Odyssey" described as the "fingertips of rose" spread from Powell Mountain to our woods. I opened the window and a chorus of morning sounds greeted me.
Over near the river, a rooster announced his presence and the coming light. Behind the corn crib, a cardinal called, and in the woods, an eastern towhee chirped its gentle call as it scratched fallen matter, looking for its first meal. Soon, a breeze rose from the west, stirring leaves and making its own music as it moved across the land. Beneath the filled bird feeders, the fountain added its soothing roll of water tumbling from bowl to bowl. A pair of doves cooed as they bobbled beneath the same feeders looking for discarded seeds, and a squirrel's claws rasped against the bark of the front hackberry as it, too, came for discards.
The breeze curled past the bay window and its gentle movement ran across my arm and face. It moved Hooper's fur while ruffling the open pages from last night's reading. It chilled my coffee, and caused a dog behind me to stir.
Years ago, on a school retreat, Harry Murphy and I took a group of students to the top of North Mountain above Shrinemont to witness the sunrise. We stumbled our way in the dark along the fire trail to what we called "the rock" and sat in low darkness waiting for it to happen. And then it did: light slowly came, revealing the morning moisture that hid Orkney Springs. Almost cautiously, as now, the orb of red, orange and yellow appeared over the mountains, giving light to all for a day.
We all sat on that projecting rock in awe of what we were witnessing, the rise of sun over Bayse and its valley at the western end of Virginia. We then walked back, in quiet reflection, for a Shrinemont breakfast of pancakes, fried apples and sausage.
Many mornings later, there are no students or Harry Murphy. This time I am surrounded by dogs and cats, but once again the majesty of a valley morning comes wrapped in endless possibilities, opportunities yet to be seen, and all wrapped in a package of splendor.
Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at email@example.com.