Window on the Dawn

This post is part of a series contributed by DRA-PWA Trustee Barnaby Porter. Read the previous post here.


dawn on the river

Every morning as I brush my teeth, I stand looking out the window over my sink at the river, just a stone’s throw across the lawn. It’s not a passive scene – soothing to my dishevelment at that hour, yes – but rather an active scene of the running tide, the new dawn’s weather and creatures beginning their day.

A nosy relative once opened my medicine cabinet and exclaimed in a suspicious tone, “What on earth’ve you got binoculars in the bathroom for?”

I waved my hand toward the window. “To look at stuff,” I told him.

“Yeah, sure,” he said, giving me the once-over. “You weirdo!”

My cousin didn’t understand a lot of things, such as why I had a window over my sink in the first place, instead of a mirror, and why the weather radio and the tide calendar on the window sill, and the thermometer just outside, up under the eaves. For him, bathrooms are for splashing water and for fooling around with his armpits.

No, he didn’t understand at all, and if he could see me standing there in the gloom of dawn, reconnoitering the state of the world at daybreak without turning on any lights, toothbrush hanging out of my mouth, binocs glued to my eyeballs, and stark naked, he’d probably be off alerting the rest of our multitudinous family.

misty sunrise on the river

But that’s how I begin my days. If the tide is down, there are legions of gulls and herons out there, working the mudflats, crows making their raucous fuss over whatever bothers them the most. It’s a whole congregation of purposeful fishers whose devotion to feeding builds with the growing light. If the tide is up, the activity of the shorebirds is curtailed and replaced by the surge of sea water that swells to fill the river valley, daily reinforcing the awareness of ebb and flow I seem unable to escape.

In winter, old squaws, eiders, whistlers, and buffleheads work the patches of open water where the ice has yielded to the current. The sight of them diving among the drifting ice cakes is, as my wife puts it, “like watching National Geographic every morning.”

There is one inert element out there – a large rock, or rather, a boulder. It is about eight feet tall and shaped like an egg, standing by itself in the mudflat with its pointed end uppermost. Ordinarily, such a boulder would not attract much attention, but this one is a very prominent feature on our waterfront. In summer, we swim out to stand on it and play King of the Rock. And various friends, arriving by boat at high tide, peer worriedly about them and shout, “Where the hell did that rock go?” Its immovable nature has not gone unnoticed.

By the time January and February roll around, our part of the Damariscotta is pretty well frozen over. Locked to the shore, the expanse of ice does not move, except up and down with the tide. And that is when the big boulder is in its glory, twice a day punching a large hole in the ice, no matter how thick, making its presence known and maintaining a spot of open, lagoon green water.

Kind of mundane stuff for my cousin and the others who can’t relate to such things, who haven’t windows over their bathroom sinks, who think that early morning hour of the day is for primping and pruning vanity. They could be right . . . or it could be the mere difference between a mirror and a window; you see what you see.


Barnaby PorterArtist and author Barnaby Porter has had a varied career in marine research, aquaculture, and woodworking, among others. Most recently he partnered with his wife Susan as co-owners of the Maine Coast Book Shop & Cafe in downtown Damariscotta. Barnaby currently serves on DRA-PWA’s Board of Trustees. For more about Barnaby, click here.

Photos courtesy of Barnaby Porter.