Sunday, July 4, 2010

By Dawn's Early Light

It is 4:30am on July 4th, and it is my 41st birthday.

The early morning birds chirping outside my window wake me, and I decide to give myself a birthday present.

It is still dark out, the very first wisps of light are coming over the horizon. I quietly dress in a sweatshirt and shorts, sneak outside and walk next door to the lighthouse.

We are out at our beach camp.    It’s a rustic cottage on the end of a four mile peninsula that juts into the ocean.    There are about forty homes out here on the point, where there is no electric power, only solar panels to run basic lights, and propane powered refrigerators and stoves.    We have running water, although you have to run a gas generator to pump up the water pressure before taking a shower or doing dishes.

This is the first year I have internet access out here, but I use it sparingly, because in order to charge my computer battery I have to plug it into the generator.   We get completely off the grid. I love that the kids don’t even ask for television - there is simply too much to do.    Long lazy days at the beach, cookouts, roasting marsh mellows, board games, reading.

There is a pack of neighborhood kids who run wild like sun-bleached wolves.   Every evening there are games of capture the flag and man-hunt.   Each night the kids fall into bed, exhausted but happy.

This morning I want to see the sun rise.

As I make my way in the dark, the tiny lighthouse beam sweeps silently over my head.  

Years ago, the tower contained a huge bright bulb that produced a wide arc of light, but it required several large gas guzzling generators to operate.   Now that the lighthouse is no longer needed for navigational purposes, this new small bulb is solar powered.   It is our constant, steadfast nightly companion, this lighthouse, and in the chilly predawn darkness I am grateful it is there.   

Up on the point, looking out over the cliffs, the view is breathtaking.   I close my eyes, and breathe the invigorating salt air.

Last night we stood on our deck and watched colorful blooms of light flare all along the horizon – fireworks displays of neighboring towns across the bay.   Steve and I stood nestled together in the cool evening breeze, Finn in my arms, Greta resting her head against my chest.

“I made these fiyahworks for you, Momma,” Finn said. “Happy Birfday”.

“Aren’t you the lucky one, Momma,” Greta grinned, “to have all these people celebrating your birthday.”

As the first rays of light peek over the horizon, I think about how lucky I am.

July 4th can be difficult in sobriety. Not only is it one of the most alcohol sodden weekends of the year, but it is also my birthday, so the first sober July 4th was, well, endured.    Last year my husband surprised me with a trip to Bermuda for my 40th.    It was an amazing vacation, and I thought about drinking less than I thought I would, but there were still some tough moments.

Last night, as we watched the fireworks displays, I looked around at the groups of adults huddled together, clutching their glasses, laughing a little too loudly.   “Bottom's Up!” I heard someone shout, with the reply “Happy 4th!” and the clinking of glasses.

I braced myself for that internal wince – the one that reminds me that I’m an alcoholic who can never enjoy one drink again.

It didn’t come.

I squeezed Finn a little tighter, and he rested his head on my shoulder, his warm arms encircling my neck. Greta squealed in delight at the colorful bursts of light and sound. My husband placed a comforting hand on my back.

I didn’t want to drink. Not because of fear, the I-can’t-have-one-because-then-I’ll-have-twenty kind of fear.   Not because I’m an alcoholic in recovery and I can’t drink in safety.

I didn’t want to drink because the moment was perfect just the way it was.

This morning, at the lighthouse, I think about hope. 

I think about how the tiny beam of light pierces the darkness, leads the way for a weary traveler.   When the sun's rays crest the horizon, the tiny light winks out, no longer needed.   But when the darkness comes again, and it always does, the little light will shine again.

The sky is awash in light and color.    Every day is a fresh start, a chance to begin anew.   A re-birth, if you will.

I feel the sun's warmth on my skin, and I smile.    Life is good today.    Happy Birthday to me.


  1. "because the moment was perfect just the way it was." Great, great line. And a good way to live. I'm one who is always looking to improve. "If only ...". I'm gonna try and live that way this week.

    Have a great birthday off the grid!

    p.s. have you ever posted pics of your cottage? I don't remember seeing any. I'd love to see what it looks like. I

  2. Happy birthday! Goegeous pics and a gorgeous outlook. I'm glad you got to see the sunrise, and share it with us all! :)

  3. Happy Birthday my friend! What a beautiful way to spend your first moments of your special day. Have you ever heard the saying that when you were born angels danced? I bet they still are.

  4. And now I'm crying....

    Happy birthday, Ellie. I'd tell you to enjoy the day, but you already are.

  5. I didn't want to drink because everything was perfect just the way it was. Possibly the most beautiful hopeful thing I've heard in recovery. Happy Birthday!!

  6. Breathtaking photos along with an inspiring post. Happy Birthday and 4th of July as well. Blessings.

  7. Happy Birthday. What beautiful photo's.

    Have a great year!

  8. Oh Ellie... this was so breathtaking. Happy birthday :) Gorgeous photos... what an amazing place to be.
    (And I hear you on the 4th and sobriety... this is my first 4th, sober (other than pregnant ones...) and it's harder than I thought it would be. But so good)

  9. Beautiful. And, sun-bleached wolves? I love it.

    Happy birthday to you, my friend.

  10. May this be your best year yet, friend.

    Maggie's piano teacher had her little boy at 5:45 am July 4th, 2010. It is a good day indeed.

  11. happy belated birthday to you!

  12. Happy Birthday Ellie. Thank you for sharing your beautiful birthday with us.

  13. Happy birthday! Goegeous pics and a gorgeous outlook. I'm glad you got to see the sunrise, and share it with us all! :)

  14. May this be your best year yet, friend.

    Maggie's piano teacher had her little boy at 5:45 am July 4th, 2010. It is a good day indeed.