It’s the tiny growing awareness of that existence of a miniscule glimmer of light; that dim pinprick glow in the east that penetrates white tarp walls and eyelids. The cockpit interior with all its contents gently emerges from the night gloom with the reluctant opening of one eye; individual objects taking on a form and shape of their own in the greyness of early sunrise. The headtorch, reading glasses, VHF radio and charging mobile on its portable battery bank; the red PFD alongside the powerful hand torch on the opposite side thwart.
Cool damp air touches one’s exposed face, a drop of condensation coagulates overhead, overcoming gravity. Drip.
Phew……..the tiny splash on the exposed keelson plank below accompanied by an overwhelming sense of relief. It missed. A sudden wet awaking averted, but only just!
Semi consciousness comes with the start of the dawn chorus, well before that dim dawn glow appears. Our ‘’feathered alarm clock friends’ (RSPB) start early, defending their territories and singing to attract a mate, for in that cold dim light of a new morn, effort in foraging is wasted. Insects have yet to warm up, and early morning flight in this dim, grey light risks attracting the attention of a shadowy, deadly silent, night-time predator returning from late night-time foray across woods and creek-side meadows. On these calm, still, mornings, perhaps it is best to stay snuggled in sleeping bag a few minutes more, listening to the blackbirds, robins and song thrushes warbling their symphony far and wide across wooded valley. "The avian Glyndebourne that has welcomed the dawn of our ancestors in similar fashion for countless centuries" as Henry Porter of 'The Guardian Newspaper’ once put it. “To be alone in the dawn chorus reminds us of how precious life is”.
The light peach glow that creeps across side thwarts and along cockpit length. There is no noise from cars or planes; the sleeping house-boaters moored across the creek have yet to wake and put their radios on. Such uninterrupted peace is to be savoured.
The once lengthening shadows shorten and fade as the sun rises and avian chorus reaches a crescendo before dwindling as birds fly in search of the warmed and unwary insects and worms clinging to stalk, bramble and soil cast.
Full consciousness arrives with a start! That realisation that high spring tide is turning, risking imminent and embarrassing grounding on mudflats below. 'All hands to the deck!' The brain is coerced into ordering body to shed itself of warm night time attire for the ever so slightly damp day clothing; that same clothing so carefully stored in a bag within one’s bivvy bag to keep it……warm!
Limbs scramble to untangle themselves from sleeping bag and bivvy, an inelegant ordeal of squirming and ducking to avoid condensation transferring to bare torso and the new day’s clothes.
Through the aft end tarp flaps, the first glimpse of emerging day. The grey veils of night time gauze retreat, un-swathing the gently flowing river with its tendrils of fine mist that hang above the warm waters below. The first faint hints of pink and gold caress the upper most branches of mighty oaks high on valley sides as the sun’s warm life-giving rays slowly roll down the slopes. "As form and colour of things are restored, the dawn remakes the world in its antique pattern"; so says Oscar Wilde.
But for me?
It is as if as one entity, the entire valley heaves a sigh of relief and contentment. Dawn is bringing her colour palette to reeds and mudflats, meadows and marshes. As John Ruskin wrote “Let every dawn of morning be to you as the beginning of life”.
Of course, it is unlikely that John Ruskin ever had to rush to catch the top of a rapidly ebbing tide!