I couldn’t find the sun.
Call it commentary on the plight of the modern city-slicker, or just a weird, weird thought to encounter at 5:45am. That’s about an hour shy of sunrise in Houston, Texas, and approximately the time I forced myself out of bed and hit the streets.
The sun wasn’t far behind me. For the next half hour, I had another goal in mind: find the best place to greet it.
I’m glad to have moved into inner Houston, but my cityscape comes with a cost. It’s a little harder to breathe in here. The rolling skyline now looks crowded, concrete-heavy, and yet—it is Texas, after all—impossibly blue.
I spent thirty minutes walking my neighborhood. I found tall trees, taller buildings, and a surprising lack of patches of sky still open to the horizon. One nervous eye stayed on the clock as I made one last loop before hoofing my way home. I could try again the next day. I could wake up even earlier, drive a little ways out of town, and try and find a vantage point somewhere far away from the concrete jungle.
I won’t lie. I was pretty disappointed. The sky continued to brighten as I trudged back home.
For memory #005 of the Make Every Day Count project, the goal is simple: watch the sunrise.
Maybe not as simple as I’d thought.
With fifteen minutes until showtime, I popped the rear door of my car, plopped down in the trunk area, and decided to wait. Outside of my apartment, there’s one gap in the trees that looked promising: a patch of sky a little lighter than the rest and not a cloud in sight. It wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t the wide-range view I had hoped to find, but it would do.
Time ticked on. Come the fifteen minute mark, I found what I’d spent every waking minute trying to see: the striking color of the sun inching its way up through the trees.
I still wouldn’t call it the perfect vantage point. When I do this again, in fact, I’ll try and time my morning excursion for when I’m somewhere far from the city’s reach.
But I realized something as I walked the streets alone that morning. It’s the kind of thought that only makes sense when the birds are still quiet and the sky is navy blue.
This is the world before it wakes up.
Time streaks by when I’m inside the city. I’ve been here just a few months, now, but even these sixty-odd days have felt like a few weeks. It’s not unique to Houston, but I’d say it is unique to cities: this mad rush to go, go, go, and this collection of colored lights burning well into the night.
We don’t take a lot of time to breathe. We take even less time to sleep. The city doesn’t rest, and—if my downstairs neighbor is any indication—nor do the people who live in it.
That morning, though, felt different. It took me a few minutes to catch on, but I soon came to understand why: the city was silent. For the first time in the last few months, I couldn’t hear a thing. Car horns, dog barks, and the swirl of noise from the cleaning facility directly behind my building were still.
I felt like I could breathe.
And that’s my big takeaway, here, from a morning spent searching for the sun.
We get wrapped up in this idea of solitude. We spend hundreds of dollars on yoga retreats, hiking trips, and noise-cancelling headphones, but we too often forget how the world sleeps just an hour shy of the sun’s morning ritual.
Even in the heart of the city, we can find quiet. We can watch the world come alive, light by light, and be reminded of something remarkable: in a planet stuffed to the brim with people and places, there’s always an opportunity to breathe.
Your Mission: Watch the Sunrise
You know what to do.
But when you peel yourself out of bed and step outside, remember to stop and listen for a moment to the world around you. There’s a powerful quiet before the sun makes an appearance, and there’s a rare opportunity, there, to greet the world before it stirs from slumber.
If you listen closely enough, you might just hear it breathe.