Facing East ~ April Tierney
Updated: Mar 4
Foothills of Colorado Rocky Mountains
I am not so interested in speaking these days, it is listening that enthralls me most––to the burnished hills slinging notes of salmon, peach, and violet colored rays back into the cupboard of my quaking heart. I wake every morning at dawn and go outside to greet the rising sun, my waking is a kind of listening. Birds and sunflowers know the importance of this daybreak ritual, as does every human culture whose mythologies reach beyond the severed roots of this modern world. Never for a moment did our ancestors imagine that life would continue on without their active participation, their attention to the dawn, their libations and offerings of gratitude, devotion, praise. Never did they simply roll out of bed feeling entitled to the unfolding of another blessed day.
Around the Winter Solstice, I started going outside at sunrise out of sheer desperation. It had been a grueling two-and-a-half-month-stretch of insomnia and I was on my knees. Scientists were finding that early morning light could help reset a person’s circadian rhythm, and after trying just about everything else, I had little hope but was still willing to set my feet in that eastward direction.
The first morning I got up, after spending an entire night in bed without a moment of sleep, I was haggard. I dressed quickly in the dim light of our quiet house and walked outside to stand in the cold mountain air, wrapped in a blanket and stooped over with exhaustion. As the colors spread their magnificent wings across the pale blue sky, I immediately recognized something old, yet strangely familiar, starting to stand up in my bones and sing. I did not need a scientist to tell me this was how my people had begun their days since the beginning of time.
I saw and felt and heard a dawn when the first light our ancestors witnessed upon waking was not a glowing screen, but that golden faced God who warmed their weary bones and enticed all growing things to unfurl into the luminosity of this world; when shouts of delight and songs of adoration became the only way for mouths to open themselves into the wonder of such a miracle. The sun’s reappearance in the sky each morning did not enlist apathy or boredom, instead it gave birth to awe and an insatiable longing to help sing or dance or praise a new day into being.
So I opened my tired mouth and began singing too, because we can’t always listen, now can we? There comes a time when our voices are needed in the chorus of creation, when the world begins listening in return and so we must speak, croon, howl, or intone magic to all the ones who are leaning in, who are our kin. We must give back to a world that is constantly thrusting beauty and brilliance and sustenance into our opened hands, we must make wonder bloom from our opened mouths like spring flowers unfurling beneath the blazing sun.
I have stood outside on many single digit days, I have looked east even when the horizon was cloaked in snow and fog and still I felt the sun rising as though the rising had been yoked to my soul. It is now almost the Spring Equinox, and I am still going out every morning because the ritual is set like a woven vessel in my bones––it has been filled to the brim and spills over in cycles for the beating heart of this planet.
My sleep has partially returned, but that is no longer why I go. I am delighting at the nearness of the birds landing back in our thawing hills so that our voices can sway, dip and crisscross in the dawn chorus as two species who love this world and are no less moved to act upon that love than any other. I anxiously await the first and holy day of April when other humans will rise with the sun too, when we remember our ancient ways of greeting the day, when our voices will create an emergent wave, cresting and falling over the body of this glistening world in breaths of reverie.
~~~~~ April Tierney is a poet, activist, craftswoman, mother, and lover of stories. Her work follows threads of ecopoetics, myth, culture, and lineage. She is the author of three full length collections of poetry, including her recent book, Memory Keeper (Homebound Publications, 2022). She lives in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains with her husband, young daughter, mischievous dog, and wide web of kin.
Thank you April Tierney for singing your voice here as we approach Earthsongwave Dawn Chorus on Saturday,1 April. If you find yourself resonating with April’s song, please share with one person, then if they share with another…. and they