I awaken before dawn.  It has always been so.  It is built into my genetic wiring.  My mind begins to stir out of a deep sleep about four thirty.  By five I am usually sitting at my desk writing on any given Stonebrooke morning, like right now.  When each morning begins, it is like sitting in the darkness of a grand theater just before the curtain is raised.  I sit before the wide windows of Stonebrooke, spacious glass set in wood frames that extend from the floor to the wood planked ceilings.  They were designed and built this way for a purpose – the very purpose for which I restlessly await each morning.

Unlike my mind, the morning awakens slowly here in the deep, southernmost terminus of the great, rolling Appalachians.  Stonebrooke proper is nestled between two escarpments cut by a restless and temperamental stream into the deepest bedrock of the mountain.    On either side of this place are towering trees – equally varied between hardwood and evergreen.  We sit so low inside this gentle crevasse that the trees seem to leap out from either bank and attain a height of hundreds of feet – some of it gained because of their actual height and some because of the elevation of the pair of steeply rising slopes on either side.

The mornings here appear most gradually out of the quiet mists of the mountains.  The first views from the expanse of glass around me are of a black and white world, completely void of color.  The images of the deep forest appear muted, vanquished of sharp edges or any hint of hurry.  The shadows are absolute during the first half hour or so – blending grays into blackness and back again in a soft spray of a hundred thousand muted forms that quickly disappear into the slopes and stream.  There is a soft sound of water trickling outside, just barely enough to make it though these walls, but enough to induce and sustain the deepest sleep I have ever known.  The musty odor of the forest canopy seeps though the glass and wood with just enough energy to sit peacefully and contentedly atop the spice and cinnamon of Claudia’s candles from last night’s dinner.  But like the image that is developing little by little before me, the forest aroma are in no hurry nor do they have any notion of suppressing or dominating any other scent.  They are just there.  Their power is simple and unpretentious, assumed by their mere attendance to the scene.

The first colors that eke their way out of the shadows are the deep blues.  And with the blues, the mists began to attract the recessed lighting of a still unassuming sun who always seems to find it difficult to climb out of her celestial repose.  The mists dominate the first minutes of the forest dawn and govern the morning as they stubbornly relinquish the colors of the day.

The greens follow the blues – first the gentle greens of the ferns and the delightful, tiny leaves of the towering Eastern Hemlock.  The leaves of the forest floors appear like a thousand little elfin caps followed by the medium greens of the hardwood leaves – the oaks, the elms, maples and the seasonally fickle deciduous.    Then the deeper greens emerge from the shadows – the profound greens of the other mountainous conifers and the long needle pines.

Slowly, deliberately, the sun begins to reluctantly dominate the forest’s dark floor.  In any other place on earth, the sun would have long since taken over the morning, but not so here in Stonebrooke.  By the time the solar rays have commanded the day everywhere else, the forest is still unhurriedly awakening.

Gently, the sun releases the reds, yellows and oranges found sparingly here and there in the forest.  By the time they make their appearance, the mist has almost faded away.  Suddenly where there was once only soft ambiguity, the sharp edges begin to dominate.  The stream’s silver dance cuts away into a distance that was lost just a short time before.  Its waters divide the world in two, forming the ribbon that ends the slopes that fall from before and from behind the glass.  On its surface are a myriad of countless bubbles that rise from the sounds of tricking and gurgling that is the forest’s crystal stream that graciously shares its life with all of its living forms.