We were out long before dawn, driving the few miles to our rendezvous at Fox House, where we would meet our companions. With Sheffield behind us, we saw the sun rise above the distant horizon and watched its soft gold suffuse the sky of the city below as the car climbed the road to the moor. We were taking our little company to a high place to watch the dawn… yet we had already seen the sun rise in splendour.
Gathering our companions and blessing the fact that they had all risen so early to share the birth of a new day with us, we headed out to Higger Tor, the highest point in the area and an intriguing place in its own right. The views from there are spectacular…and have the added advantage of being only a few minutes walk from the narrow road that winds its way across the moor.
Our timing was perfect. We reached the top with just a few moments to catch our breath before we gathered to greet the sun, with a chant that echoed back across millennia to ancient Egypt. The sun’s timing was prefect too, but then, it always it… it is we who rise too late. Climbing above the hills beneath which the city sleeps, the solar disc crested the horizon as the final chants rang out and bathed the world in gold.
The photographer at the other end of the plateau must have wondered what on earth was going on…or maybe he, who rises early to catch the first rays of the golden hour, understood. We did get the impression that our presence was less than welcome…and we can understand that too; these early morning moments are special and seem, somehow, very personal. It is as if, standing before the sun, the world falls away and you come face to face with great Nature… and the Source of that great outpouring of life that stands behind her. True awe is not something we feel in our workaday lives as a rule, yet the miracle of a perfect sunrise reminds you of more than beauty.
Deep shadows and gilded mist make these first moments of the day magical. We wandered across the top of the plateau, looking out over the valley below and far across to the distant peaks, each with their own stories and legends to tell. You are around 1500 feet above sea level here and birds fly beneath you, skimming the early mist as seagulls skim the sea.
The mysterious bulk of Carl Wark was wreathed in swirling shapes, shifting and changing as if the spirits of the place had taken the morning mists to clothe their essence and make it visible, just for a moment, as the mistwraiths danced. From here the scale of the immense wall built across the hillfort thousands of years ago is made clear and the relationship between the two sites is both evident and full of unanswered questions.
The growing light began to reveal the details of the landscape. We began to be able to see some of the places we had been, some of the roads we had travelled to get there and others we were yet to know. From this high place, we could see how they related to one another, making patterns in the landscape visible only because of our experience of it…making sense of the disconnected moments.
The plateau slopes down here, dipping towards Hathersage and, as we once again turned to the east, we saw the sun crest the horizon yet again, thrice-risen for us that day. It was a strange feeling, for the dawn comes but once, but it was only with its third rising that the land moved from night to full day. It is even stranger when you really think about it…which we do not, accepting a daily dawn as part of the way things are.
The sun never, ever sets… it does not move from its point in space, nor does it sink into obscurity. It is the Earth that turns her back, turning away from a light that never fades and we believe that it has departed into the night. These days, we know that… yet we persist in our illusion of day and night because that is how it touches our senses. We know otherwise, but our experience is not one of ceaseless light, but of an alternating gift and loss.
Though we raise our eyes and our voices to greet the dawn, we do not worship the sun as we are told our ancestors did, as the source of all life, though we honour its place in the incredible beauty of creation. We raise our eyes and hearts to a symbol of something too vast and too bright to see… and symbolically, as well as in beauty, this was a perfect dawn. For us too, the Light may seem lost as life turns us away through the need to earn our place in the world. Darkness may take us and leave us feeling alone, lost and bereft… yet the Light never leaves us. We just fail to see that it is there.
We carry the Light into the world at our birth, often losing sight of it as we learn to move through the intensity and awkwardness of youth; it is never absent, only lost to consciousness. We may choose to turn and watch it dawn once more… standing in silent awareness as it reveals the true and rocky landscape of our lives to our understanding. And we may be graced with a third dawn that once again brings us into the realisation of a Light that never left us. Thus, for each of us, there may be a thrice-risen Sun.