On a lake shore in Finland, I once sat waiting for the sun. The horizon changed slowly as the heralds of dawn colored the sky a delicate pink. First it was just a shimmer, the mere promise of a gleam, before the eastern sky turned lipstick red and burst into flaming scarlet. Then, right at the center of the line that separated lake and sky an orange sphere hove into view, growing larger, yellower, more intense and ever brighter.
All of this took about half an hour, but then things moved quickly, much more quickly. The first ray of sun that shot across the horizon toward me arrived at the speed of light, roughly 300 000 kilometers per second. That’s quite normal; what was unusual was that I actually saw the sunbeam coming before it hit my retina. At almost the same moment, I heard a giant clatter in the reeds to my left, the clatter of powerful wings, as a flock of large water fowl made their synchronized takeoff into a new day. First I was startled, then enchanted. I found myself longing to join them, flying so low over the lake that the tips of our wings would send up drops of spray before we gained height, circled and began riding the wind. Since I cannot fly, I followed one of the birds with my gaze and allowed my soul to soar with it. For a few seconds, I actually became a bird, hovering above the lake. After my inevitable return to earth, I set to lighting my camping stove and making some coffee.
I have to admit that it’s quite some time since my exceptional experience in Finland. But as it happens, it was one of the most wonderful mornings of my life.
Our columnist, Helge Timmerberg, an irrepressible globetrotter since 1969, writes travel books and contributes monthly to our magazine.