There was a sunrise today, and I didn’t see it
“Trying to sneak a fastball by Hank Aaron is like trying to sneak the sunrise past a rooster.” – Joe Adcock
Even Hank Aaron struck out once in a while, actually, he struck out an average of 68 times per season. Not too sure about roosters though.
For the first time since December 31, 2018 I can say I didn’t see the sunrise. Yes, it happened, the streak of consecutive sunrises watched ends at one thousand seven hundred eighteen.
Writing that is difficult, more difficult than I imagined. Buckle up, it’s a long one.
I’m a little mad at myself, a lot embarrassed, and I’m definitely sad. This isn’t how I wanted this streak to end. My hope, was that I would end it on my own accord, knowing the night before that I would be sleeping in. Maybe, the pressure of making that decision was always too grand in the end. Maybe, it had to end by accident.
So, what happened?
Just yesterday I said to Tieka, “I just haven’t been sleeping well the last two weeks.” The night prior I woke up at 3:30 a.m. wide awake, excited for Fresh Coast Film Festival with a brain running in circles with all things BugsyLand. I stayed up through sunrise and took a long nap once I got back from Presque Isle. Again last night, I woke up at 3 a.m, restless and unable to fall back asleep. I drank some water, turned on the fan. I continued to toss and turn.
Unlike the prior night, I did eventually pass out, and I passed out hard. I woke in a ball of blankets and pillows with the sun peering through my blinds. At first, I made nothing of seeing the sun from bed. It’s a common experience to take a nap after sunrise wake up with sunlight in my eyes. I rolled over to look at my bedside clock, it was 8:03 a.m., a full 36 minutes past sunrise. Absolute panic sets in.
Not only was I panicked to miss the sunrise, I was also supposed to be at the radio station by 8 a.m. for a live interview for Fresh Coast Film Festival (of which sunrise has become a part of the program).
I pick up my phone and it’s dead.
I shoot out of bed, rush to get dressed and to my car. My camera and tripod already in my car, ready to go, except this time, instead of heading to the shoreline, I was rushing to the radio station. On the way I felt overcome with emotion, wanting to let the tears come flowing, but had to suck it all up in preparation to do a live radio interview. I walk in, embarrassed, well past the scheduled time. As Walt turns around the corner to welcome me, I didn’t know what to do other than to shake my head and look down. We managed to record an interview to run at a later time. I’m sorry, Walt.
As I leave the radio station, I’m full of mixed emotions and wanted to reach out to talk to someone, and longing for a hug. However, I am now rushed and late for my next obligation at The Crib for another Fresh Coast meeting at 8:30 a.m.. My phone, plugged into my car’s charger, is still dead. During the eight minute drive I feel an entirely odd sensation for this hour of the day, I recognize that my body feels rested. It is entirely refreshing and freeing to feel so early in the day.
Still, with hardly anytime to process what just happened, I walk into The Crib where of course I immediately see my dear friend Victoria, who introduces me to her mentee, “This is Bugsy, he’s watched every sunrise since…” All I did was nod, I didn’t have it in me to tell her that’s no longer true.
Seated at my table, waiting for Andrea, iPhone plugged into my laptop, it finally boots up. First thing I see is a text from Andrea saying, “En route. Slept through my alarm.” She arrives shortly after, kindly reiterating that she’s sorry for being late after sleeping through her alarm. She asks, “Has that ever happened to you at sunrise?” Little did she know at that given moment. Still searching for my own thoughts and feelings, all I could muster up was, “I’ll tell you about it sometime.”
My meeting concludes and I get a second round of coffee. I put in my headphones and queue up the song, “We stayed up all night (to watch the sunrise),” a staple of this project since year one. For the first time this morning, now 2.5 hours after missing my first sunrise in nearly five years, I am alone.
So, what really happened this morning?
To give you an overview of these sunrise years, I’ve gotten into the habit of falling asleep one of two ways, either with a fan on or with some form of sleep music playing quietly from my phone. For a long time during the hot summer months, I was fearful of using a fan, thinking it was loud enough that I would sleep through my alarm. However, I put this to the test during my frequent naps, and my alarm would always wake up even with the fan on high.
Last night, as cool as these nights have been, I left my window cracked and opted for some sleep music instead of the fan. I frequently use the sleep timer feature on Spotify so that it automatically turns the music off after an hour of play. Last night, I’m fairly certain I didn’t turn on the sleep timer. When I woke up at 3:00 a.m. I faintly remember the music still softly playing.
Something else had to happen for this to go awry.
For several weeks I have been dealing with a faulty phone charging cable. If I don’t wiggle the cable just right, it doesn’t maintain a connection to charge my phone. Usually I double check to make sure alarms are set and phone is charging.
I missed this morning’s sunrise due to a simple error. While my music continued to play, it drained what little battery was left. By morning, after a night of very little sleep, my phone was dead and there was no alarm.
My phone, over three years old, has had a diminishing battery life. I’ve been ogling over the new iPhone (which literally went on sale today). A new phone with longer battery life would have prevented this. Me turning on the sleep timer would have prevented this. Me using the fan instead of playing music would have prevented this. A well rested night likely would have prevented this (now, I often wake up before my alarm).
I went to be bed last night with every intention of watching this morning’s sunrise. Not only did I sleep through my alarm, my alarm didn’t even go off.
Frankly, I’m surprised it took 1,719 mornings for this very simple thing to go wrong.
Beyond 365, or even 366, the streak has never been the overarching goal. But it has felt important to me, powerful even. I’m still unsure if or where this feat has been documented. Yesterday I was writing about how fleeting the moment of sunrise is. If my streak was running for 1,719 consecutive days, I could still go for a run later today. If my streak was surfing for 1,719 consecutive days (Dale Webster), I could still get into the water later today. But sunrise is gone, it happened, there’s no going back, there’s no second chance. I think that’s the significance of this particular streak. There was not a 24-hour window in which I had the luxury to choose when I would go out and watch sunrise. There was only a moment, the slimmest of moments, often at an ungodly hour during inclement weather.
This is long, eh? Thank you for making it this far into my ramblings. As much thought, effort, energy, passion, commitment, and shear grit I have poured into these sunrise years, I knew I wouldn’t go light when the inevitable time came to write this one. Well, I’m not done yet.
So, what’s next?
I am fighting off every urge to reference other sunrise photos from this morning and to simply publish a similar photo from my massive library of unpublished sunrise photos. I undoubtedly have similar, unused photos that could pass as this morning’s sunrise. I could do this and hide from my embarrassment of sleeping through my alarm that never even went off.
However, at the many turning points of these sunrise years, it has been a journey about vulnerability and authenticity. As much I don’t want to share any of this, I also have a duty to share it just as it happened.
Let’s for a moment pretend I published a photo from another morning. On the left is this morning’s sunrise from Bob Fleury, on the right is a photo I took from sunrise on September 11, 2021. There are clear differences, but if someone was out there this morning and weren’t comparing photos side by side, would they have known that this first one isn’t from the same day?
I’m pretty certain I could have gotten away with it. After all, this was decently close after taking just five minutes to look for a similar photo. The next biggest giveaway, was how actually calm it was this morning at McCarty’s Cove.
I don’t particularly like the timing of this. I went to bed last night excited to share the most recent batch of edited photos. This isn’t the update I was expecting to write. I have been in a good place, riding a high coming off the Pure Michigan collaboration, excited for sunrise tours at Fresh Coast Film Festival, and excited to complete a fifth consecutive year.
There have been close calls before. Out the door scarily close to sunrise, wrong place at the wrong time where the sun was around a corner, dead camera batteries, being stuck in snowbank, camera locked in the car, etc. But never have I been dead asleep through sunrise.
Bill, I’m sorry.
Mostly, I have a lot of questions.
- Does this change when the project ends?
- Is the fifth year legitimate if I missed one?
- Will I be more careless about missing future sunrises if I slept through this one?
- How will I talk about the project without the word consecutive?
- How do I begin my Instagram captions, back to Sunrise No. 1?
- There is language on posters, the website, etc that says “… and I have yet to miss one.” That all changes.
- And, “Oh great, now I have to write new code for the website to handle a day without a photo”
Yes, I intend to watch the sunrise tomorrow.
Over the last one thousand seven hundred nineteen days, I have watched one thousand seven hundred eighteen sunrises. By any measure, I think that’s pretty alright.
P.S. The sun still rises.
This isn’t actually from this morning, but it’s pretty darn close to what I saw when panic set in. It’s not an unfamiliar view. I often see this when I head home after sunrise and try to sneak in a nap before a long day.
There has been an interesting psychosis that has occurred many times seeing this, which delayed this morning’s initial panic, which didn’t actually happen until I looked at the bedside clock, which I have never used as an alarm.
During countless naps post-sunrise, I have found myself waking up to a sunny bedroom, half wondering, “Did I just sleep through sunrise? Wait, was I already awake?” The panic has happened several times in those moments, but I always come to and realize, wait, I already got up this morning.
That is the epiphany that never occurred this morning.