In praise of the sunrise

by Steve Brock on November 29, 2015

Sunrise over Bryce Canyon - In praise of sunrisesOver on my other site, www.StephenWBrock.com I recently finished a three-part series on sunsets, why we value them and how to photograph them. You might think from that series that I’m fond of sunsets. I am. But in truth, I actually prefer sunrises. Why?

  • Sunrises are, to me, rarer. I’m usually awake when the sun sets. When it rises? That’s more dependent on the season and the previous night.
  • Sunrises are more surprising. With sunsets, you see them coming. With sunrises, you’re in the dark – literally – before they occur. You never know what you’ll get.
  • Sunrise is a special time of day. If I can actually drag myself out of bed to witness the sunrise, I’m usually glad I did. There’s something about the early morning that goes deep. I value the peace of it before all the busyness of the day descends and sadly, makes the experience of beholding the sun rising seem like an unnecessary frivolity.
  • Sunrise offers a different kind of light. The surrounding air, except in the hottest summer days, can be cool or even frigid. But on a clear morning, the sun’s warm light breaks through the cold atmosphere offering a glorious sensation, hot and cold all at the same time. Unusual, but it works. Sort of like dark chocolate with sea salt.
  • Sunrises are hopeful. This, above all other reasons, is why I love the morning sun making its appearance each morning. Sunrises welcome the day. They help us remember that we have another day. They grow in light and cast out the dark. There’s more than symbolism at play in the Christian celebration of Resurrection Sunday that we celebrate at sunrise. A light has indeed come…and in a way, comes every morning.

When I begin to wonder if I’m overthinking this whole thing about sunrises, all I have to do is climb out of a warm bed and step outside of a warm house into the cold of morning and look up. And there, I behold once again this glowing sign of hope.

I figure we can all use a little hope.

Every single day.


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Art, music and a distant longing

by Steve Brock on January 30, 2015

Sacred Places by Christian Burchard

I’m driving home from a meeting. The radio is on. NPR. Garrison Keillor to be exact, his lounging voice reciting in its rhythmic gait the words of Anne Porter’s poem, “Music.”  You can (and should to fully appreciate the meaning of all this) pop over and read her poem now.

Work by Jason WalkerBack with me? Her poem surprised me since it ends in a far different place than where I expected at the start. But such is the nature of good writing and good trips.

Two days later, I take a short trip over to Bellevue, WA. It’s not a typical tourist destination, but it’s more than sufficient for our needs. I’m taking my wife on a date to make up for more than my share of travel lately. We have a wonderful lunch then we go to the Bellevue Art Museum.

I love their exhibit of John Economaki’s work at Bridge City Tools, of Jason Walker’s whimsical yet thought-provoking ceramics and most of all their BAM Bienniel 2014: Knock on Wood. As the name suggests, all of the works in this latter show were made in whole or in part from trees.

Have you ever been somewhere – a museum, a fair, a restaurant or even a party – where you enjoy each piece, experience, dish or person individually, but collectively they build to a cumulative sense of sheer delight? That was my feeling at the show, but even that description doesn’t capture exactly how I felt.

Perhaps it was wonder.

Or maybe something more. A reaction more akin to longing. More like this line from Anne Porter’s poem:

Why is it that music
At its most beautiful
Opens a wound in us
An ache a desolation
Deep as a homesickness
For some far-off
And half-forgotten country

Substitute the word “art” or even “travel” and the sentiment still holds true.

Works by Morse ClaryWhy is it? She answers that question in the last stanzas of her poem.

Is what she writes the only answer for how we feel? A complete answer? Likely not. But is it satisfying? In its own way, yes. It helps explain why all of us have these moments where we encounter beauty that moves us so profoundly that we don’t know what to do with it or with ourselves.

Music, art, even travel touches us and reminds us that:

We have been wandering
But we were made for Paradise
As deer for the forest

So close, so far 1-3 by Brian WilsonWe retain only vestiges of memory of our lost native country and when windows – gaps or glimpses more likely – open up and open us up to that half-forgotten place, we sigh. We know it to be true. Or at least, we want it to be true and sometimes that may be enough.

Works by Helga WinterWhat this short trip did was remind me that in music, art, travel or other areas of passion, we find not what we may have been looking for, but what we need to be reminded of. We need these soul-stirring awakenings in this life to remember that there is more to (and than) this life. So much more.

And best of all, in and through all of this, we have a Guide who brings us to these moments, moments of wonder that satisfy us even as they stir in us the yearning for that something more. A Guide who, as Anne Porter notes,

also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.

Therein lies the deepest wonder of all.


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There is room

by Steve Brock on December 27, 2013

Christmas Eve Candle

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m standing in a darkened church a thousand miles from home, or at least the place I currently call home. I stand here in silence with a few hundred others, each of us holding a solitary candle, this sanctuary a flickering contrast of light and shadow.

Our final verse of “Silent Night” hangs in the air as the pastor tells us to be still and do something so few of us these days do: embrace the silence and the presence of the One whose birth we celebrate this evening.

I think on the short meditation the pastor has just spoken. He tells us of that night two thousand years ago when Mary and Joseph traveled under much different circumstances to a small town that had no room for them. The story is familiar, perhaps too much so, until he makes this point.

The place where Mary and Joseph end up, where she delivers a most remarkable child into this world, is a place that seems to have room. Plenty of it. Room enough for the weary couple. Room for the animals likely unaccustomed to the company. Room for the shepherds who come to behold the child declared to them in the most wondrous of ways. And most of all, in that stable, room for the very Son of God.

The pastor goes on to tell of a tradition in Ireland and other countries where on Christmas Eve, people leave a candle burning in their window. They declare with a single flame of light that Mary and Joseph would be welcome there, that there is room in their house for God. There is room for the One who grew from that tiny baby into a man who made room in his life for others. For the broken, the outcast, the lost and the hurting. People like you and me.

And so, as I look at my own and the candles held by others around me on this Christmas Eve, I marvel at the light and silence and how all of us who have come here as distant strangers can feel so close in this half-light. I think of the words spoken as we passed our flame to the next waiting candle: “Jesus Christ. The Light of the World.” And I wonder.

I wonder how long this moment will last. I wonder if in the coming New Year, I will go my usual ways and let the cares and stresses and yes, even the travel, cause me to forget what has been revealed this special evening. I wonder if there will be room in my life for what matters.

And then I realize that I have a choice. I cannot always choose my circumstances, but I can choose how I react to them. I can’t control what comes my way, but I can decide to some degree how I will spend my time. Most of all, I can trust that the One who made room for others two millennia ago is doing the same thing for each of us today. Emmanuel – God with us – today.

There is room.

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Start before you leave

by Steve Brock August 6, 2013

Why wait until your destination to start looking for wonder on a trip? It may be closer than you think but you have to be present and prepared to see it.

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Surprise and wonder

by Steve Brock July 17, 2013

What’s the difference between wonder and surprise? Sometimes that difference may not matter…

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The wonder of us

by Steve Brock July 11, 2013

What’s the greatest wonder in the world? There are lots of options but let me suggest a very familiar one you see every day…

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The wonders you missed the first time

by Steve Brock July 2, 2013

In the midst of travel, we don’t always catch the wonder around us. But photos help us to see the wonder we might have missed at the time.

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