Rise and Shine — All Day
By Lee Sandford
We live in a wonderful little town, whose appeal this time of year is hard to top, with Fall Fests, Halloween window painting, Mistletoe Magic etc. But if you want to appreciate, really appreciate, where we live, and give your physical and mental health an instant boost, head to the Boardwalk at sunrise. (Spoiler alert, this isn’t exactly a well-kept secret. It’s busy down there on a beautiful morning.)
This is not something I ever thought I’d be writing about, not typically being a morning person. I lived here several years before I saw the sunrise, and it was to see the swimmer of my triathlon relay team off into the Sound. I’m ashamed to say that in some subsequent years, I did the approximate math and only showed up at the park closer to my start-time as the runner.
However, a few weeks ago, and I have no idea what prompted it, I decided to take the less than ten-minute walk to the bottom of Rye Beach Avenue to look at the water and meditate for a few minutes, before I started my day.
It took hardly any time to do but I felt so much better for it. After a few days of doing this, I realized that with the sunrise getting gradually later, it wasn’t outside the realms of possibility that I might one day make it out early enough to catch the main event. I’ve seen the sunrise quite a number of times since then, and my walks have become longer. I’m no longer just squeezing it into my morning but making time to enjoy it properly.
Whether you are conscious of it or not, as humans we crave a connection with nature and the changing seasons. That connection is extremely good for our wellbeing. Sunrise and sunset are Mother Nature’s most spectacular displays to watch and feel that connection, they happen every day, and in Rye we get to watch both across water. One doesn’t have to be an especially spiritual person to feel a transcendental sense of awe and wonder watching the sunrise over the water. I’d suggest it goes past just being a mental health boost, it’s also good for the soul.
One of the main reasons being outdoors is so good for you, and health experts recommend getting outside even for a few minutes during your lunch hour for example, is that a sub-conscious awareness of where the sun is in the sky, therefore what time of day it is, is good for regulating your circadian rhythm. This means a better night’s sleep, which obviously is one of the main pillars of health. If a few minutes in midday can cue bodily signals that benefit sleep, think how much more finely tuned those signals will be if you’ve actually seen the day begin.
I chatted with a few friends that I hadn’t known were part of the thriving sunrise community at Rye Town Park. The morning I joined Kendra and Deb for their walk, the stars were still out. But as we walked down Oakland Beach Avenue the sky in the east gradually started to light up in shades of blue, from inky navy to pale gray-blue, and orange, from dark blood orange to pale lemony hues.
When we reached the park and said our good mornings to some dog-walkers, Deb said to them, “Can you believe we live here?” There is plenty of talk just now about the mental health benefits of daily gratitude exercises, for which you can even purchase an app. This was just a spontaneous and shared thankfulness for where we live and the beauty of our planet. That’s surely a fabulous way to start your day.
Kendra and Deb have been doing their early morning walks for three years. On the well-being benefits, they both say the mood boost is invaluable. Kendra says she now can’t imagine just rolling out of bed and starting the breakfast and rides to school routine immediately.
Another pair in the sunrise community, who have been doing this for 20 years, are Bill Lawyer and Davidson Gordon. Both started just because their dogs needed to be walked before they went to work. When I asked Bill if, once he retired, he ever felt like sleeping in until say, even 8 o’clock, the answer was a firm ‘no’! He said there are too many good things to miss: “The beauty of the sun and clouds, ever changing from minute-to-minute, the feeling that it’s a new day with so many possibilities, and the way the light reflects off the water. I also think about how lucky I am to have all these just a few blocks from my house.”
Clocks change November 5th, so if you’re not a morning person, you have some time after reading this article to make it to the Boardwalk at a fairly civilized hour to watch the sun rise. You won’t regret it.