18 Morning

A noise somewhere nearby awakes Daughter-Born-By-The-Swollen-River and she opens bleary eyes. In front of her, all is blackness, but then she realises that this is because she is staring at her mother's back. She raises herself up a little to peep over her mother's sleeping form and sees the Shaman stirring up the embers of the fire, adding fresh logs. He says that he keeps the fire burning all night but she is sure everyone must know he just wakes up before them all to bring it back to life. Her mother is a low-status female so they are too far away from the fire to feel it, anyway.

She turns over so that she is facing the entrance to the cave, which is a patch of dark ever so slightly lighter than the walls of the cave. That patch of slightly-less-dark gives her a sense of expectancy, as if the world is waiting, holding its breath in anticipation of something wonderful.

'River rubs the sleep out of her eyes and settles herself into a more comfortable position. She has seen the sunrise before but somehow, today is different. Already, the sky has lightened a little more. If she had been watching, she would not have seen any difference, but what was slate grey three minutes ago is now a shade lighter. Or maybe half a shade...

She stares and stares, hardly daring to breathe, unsure how to understand such subtleties, how to describe them to others in words that can do justice to the moment by moment wonder of these tiny changes. There is no rain today, nor any clouds to hide the glories of the dawn. All she need do is wait for it to arrive.

The sky is now a shade somewhere between blue and grey with the faintest haze of yellow spread across the lower half. No sound comes from outside, no passing feet of large animals or snuffling of smaller ones. Then a bird twitters, breaking the silence, and another responds with a more musical call.

The sky is now the colour of pearl at the top of the entrance, white somewhere around the middle fading to palest gold at the bottom. The boundaries between these colours are invisible to her eye, one fading into the other seamlessly. In her mind's eye, she sees the little puddles of paint that the Shaman uses to paint Spirit Pictures deep within the cave. Could he capture this thing, she wonders, with his paints? Surely it must be easier to capture these colours as colours rather than as words? The changes are so slight, each second bringing a little more gold to view, yet her mind can only offer clumsy words that attempt to pin them down, hold them in place.

She does not realise it but she is the first human to watch the dawn with the kind of wonder that she is feeling. Watching not merely to know when it is time to begin the day's round of gathering fruit and seeds, but watching because the sight itself is worth seeing, because it inspires a feeling of awe.

A cloud tinted the palest of pale pinks drifts into view and the birds break into full song, unable to hold on any longer to the pretence that it is still night, although the sun itself is still below the horizon. Most of the sky is now pale blue to the cloud's pale pink but the band of gold at the bottom is deepening in colour.

And then, at last, the top edge of the sun appears. To 'River, it appears to be a flat disc, its real nature as a ball of flaming gas lost in the distance between it and her, its heat and light reduced to manageable proportions by thousands of miles of empty blackness. Yet this is the source of all life, the natural object of worship for so many for so long. But not yet. Humans have not yet made the connection between the sun and life. Their concerns are more earthy; food, water, shelter.

'River feels her mother stirring behind her. Morning is here; it is time to start the day.

 

18 Morning

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