I’ve said it many times in my life: I’m not a morning person. And yet, every time I’ve forced myself to actually get up in the morning, I’ve realized that it is one of the most spectacular and peaceful times of day. Years ago, my family went to visit the active Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica, my mother’s native homeland. When we approached the volcano in the afternoon, clouds shrouded it from the ground up — we had traveled so far and only managed to find a blanket of clouds. My parents decided to get a hotel room near the base of the volcano anyway, with one of them (I believe it was my mother) suggesting that we get up early to look at the volcano. Early, I did not realize, meant around four o’clock in the morning and yet I somehow managed to drag myself out of bed. As I stepped onto the dark porch that faced the volcano, I saw a trail of fiery lava snaking its way down the barely visible outline of the conical volcano. Goosebumps rose on my arms as I realized that I could not only see the lava now, but that the soft, simmering, groaning noises I had previously heard was the sound of the molten rock as it spewed.
The rest of my family went back to bed shortly thereafter, but my father and I sat outside, in quiet fascination, watching the first rays of the morning sun hit the summit of the volcano. The sky pinkened and the roosters and birds stirred to life. It was life as usual, morning as usual — but for me, a new, beautiful experience.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to go to Florence, Italy, to study for a few weeks. I traveled without sleeping for over 30 hours to get to Italy and, when I arrived in Florence, the cab driver drove — smack — right past the Duomo on the way to the hotel. The Duomo. In all its glory. Unfortunately, that glory included about four hundred tourists buzzing around it, sitting on the steps, ruining any good camera angle. I realized, right then and there, that if I wanted to get a good picture of the Duomo, I was going to have to pay the price: I was going to have to get up early.
Two weeks passed. Finally, on my last morning in Florence, I knew that it was then or never — I had to get up early or there would be no tourist-free image of the Duomo for my personal collection (even then, I still required a pep talk!). But, at five in the morning, the alarm rang, I strapped on my backpack, and I headed out the door. With a groggy and weary brain, I found my way to the Duomo — only about a half mile from where I was staying. There was not a soul in sight. I got to work immediately, taking the pictures that I had been envisioning since my first encounter with the magnificent structure (unfortunately, some of the reconstruction got in the way of my vision, but there was nothing I could do about that!). For me, the sheer act of hitting the shutter button can wake me up and put me in a good mood, and I was immediately happy about my decision to be up. But it wasn’t really until the walk back that I started looking around me, noticing all the things I had not bothered to pay attention to until that morning. All the riveting facets of a morning in an Italian city — the way the motorbikes lined the streets, the old and beautiful gates that had been pulled out after dark, the birds that circled the cathedral’s dome, the old woman spreading yellow dust near the bottom of her door (I never found out for what). The desire to capture what may be considered a cliche image had given me a window into the unusual and almost unnoticeable.
Ultimately, I think this relates to life on a larger level. I may never be a morning person, but I’ve seen the beauty of the dawn and I know what opportunities it has to offer me. Grasping these opportunities might mean sacrifice — even personal comfort — but that’s the price and the reward heavily outweighs it. In fact, were there no price, it would lose its value.