June 10th, 2011 - Sarah Morton Taggart
I was watching the sun rise for the first time in my life.
I had grown up in Utah, where the Wasatch Mountains tower over the eastern half of our world. Sure, I’d been awake in the early morning and witnessed a soft pink and grey sky. But noticing the sun finally rise beyond the peaks feels anticlimactic when the sky is already blue.
But now I lived in Chicago, where flat Lake Michigan is the eastern horizon.
I’m also inclined to stay up late. So when my friend Luis invited me to an organized midnight bike ride, I was all in. Hundreds of us started in the Loop at midnight and wound our way through the neighborhoods. People gradually peeled off and went home. Around 3:30 a small group of us coasted to the lake shore to wait for the sun.
We spent a long time in the morning twilight. Behind us the sky was still black and the lights of Navy Pier glinted to the south.
No one had a smartphone, so we amused each other with stories and stunts.
I don’t recall asking Luis if he had a similar reverence for Chicago’s flatness, given his own upbringing in mountainous Mexico City.
For long stretches we were silent. The lake water slapped rhythmically, violently against the cement shore. Now and then a roaring engine or shrieking gull would compete for our attention.
There was no schedule to consult. No benchmarks for when that sun would finally appear. Just a light growing so gradually that you had to focus all of your attention to notice it.
By 4:10 the sky was surprisingly light, but still no sun. The lake turned a silvery pink and the sky was hazy.
Finally at 4:30 a hot pink disk shimmered behind a bank of clouds on the horizon, but it didn’t feel like the sun had risen. Not yet.
Looking back, that early morning of waiting for the sun to rise was a microcosm of that year, 2011. Of waiting for what was ahead. I had moved to Chicago to get a master’s degree in urban planning and had found a rewarding and engaging job in economic development that fell apart after the financial crash. I spent a year fumbling through un- and under-employment before landing a solid desk job at a national nonprofit I admired.
I had just reconnected with one life-long best friend and met another. The next few years would be full of wine clubs and book clubs and story clubs and soccer clubs. But on that July morning I felt starved for human connection.
I should mention that I was married. It had been years since he had been willing to join me on adventures, and seemed mostly annoyed when I brought Luis back to our apartment later that morning for waffles.
The sun did eventually rise that morning.
At 4:48 it burst from behind the clouds, scattering a path of golden coins on the water below.
What I remember most was not seeing the sun but feeling its warmth. A sudden rush of heat like someone had just opened the oven to check on what was roasting inside.
2021 feels a lot like waiting for that sunrise.
I’m now married to someone else. We have two young sons and my time with them during the pandemic has been an exercise in patience. Knowing that there’s more ahead, but working so hard to focus on the beauty of now.
Sarah is a writer, illustrator, photographer and musician. She is currently helping keep the flame of local journalism alive as a writer for The City Journals in Sandy, Utah. Most of her art is released to the world in zine form, but you can also find some of her work at www.sarahmour.com.