[ there's no place like home ]
by Mark Teppo

5:00AM : DAWN

I live near the 48th Parallel and, at this point on the Earth's surface, sunrise in the early summer arrives at 5:22am. Shortly after 6:00am, I leave the house to drive along the edge of Commencement Bay on the way to work, and every day I drive past the waters of the Puget Sound and watch the light change across the bay.

Today, the waters are empty, still and placid. A lone bird flies across the bay and a pair of ducks are rummaging in the grass not far from my bench. It's 4:58am and I'm out before anyone, including those who insist on clearing out their toxins before putting in a day's work. There is a path which runs all the way from the blasted landscape of the old Absarco mill to the edge of Old Town, and the exercise-prone gravitate to this track. A single runner has just parked his car beside mine and has started off towards the west, moving slowly along the trail, his legs stiffly pounding up and down like they aren't the pair he normally wears. The twin plumes of steam from the pulp mills are pooling in the western sky, and the yellow lights from the harbor are like clustered fireflies around the pointed fingers of the cranes.

I always think of dawn as the light which shines down on the bat-winged demon at the end of The Night on Bald Mountain segment of Disney's Fantasia. There are two sections from that film which have always enthralled me: the sequence set to Stravinsky's Rites of Spring and Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain. Both are strident, explosive, tumultuous pieces which have always captivated the eight-year-old monster lover in me. But, when I start to think about the fingers of light which cross the sky at dawn, I remember the parade of lights across the valley set to Schubert's "Ave Maria." I start this hour with "The Hymn of the 7th Illusion," Barry Adamson's collaboration with Pan Sonic for Kitchen Motors' Motorlab series because it reminds me of the angelic voices and lights of "Ave Maria."

There is a thin sliver of moon in the sky and the clouds are thin strands arranged beneath its crescent shape like mirrored reflections of the tiny ripples moving across the water. I'm listening to Biosphere right now and the watery motion of "Le Grand Dome" syncs up with the gentle motion of the waves against the thin promontory of rocks on the shore. Night is starting to fade and the morning light is beginning to have some substance.

[ 5.18 am ]
photo by mark teppo

In darkness, the light which reaches our eyes is man-made, usually the jaundiced yellow of the mercury vapor lamps or the reflected cat's-eye of headlights and everything has that sickly coloration. Unless you are fortunate enough to live far away from the light pollution of the cities, it is never truly night. Our nights are tinged with sour light. When true light comes back into the sky at dawn, it doesn't bring color. No, I can see that the early light bleaches the darkness from the world. The palette of shades become bleached and pastel. Sea and sky become a matched light blue.

5:14am. Fluxion in my headphones. There are a pair of tug boats on the water. The moon is vanishing against the lightening sky. The poor moon. Even when it is shining brightly, its light isn't its own. How like the moon are we? In an hour, I'll probably be in a coffee shop, having a latte and a muffin, and, as I interact with the person behind the counter, I'll become like the moon. Reflective, part of a larger canvas, nearly invisible against a backdrop of color and motion. What I say and who I am will become dependent upon how that person interacts with me. But, for now, as I sit on the bench and watch the pink color of the sky churn on the dappled water of the bay, I am a solitary unit. I am alone.

This hour is the hour of change; this is the hour when color comes back to the world, when we move to a waking state and put on the face and shell that we will wear today. For a brief time in the morning, you are a distinct individual. You aren't part of any machinery, you haven't been counted -- the 12th passenger on the 6:45am train to Seattle, bus pass #00319, van pool #7771, employee #8145 -- you are just a single unit coming out of dream state where you have been king and conqueror of your own universe.

5:26am. It is dawn, I suppose. The moon is completely gone and the sky is a light pink with white frosted tips. I can almost see the outline of the peaks of the Cascades in the distance past Brown's Point. My ass is cold from this damp park bench, and the grass has become lush and green in the morning light. The shutter speed on my camera has gone from 1/13 to 1/250 in the last half hour. But there is no sun yet. There is just a roseate glow that is just beginning to crest the sharp line of the mountain peak in the distance.

[ 5.28 am ]
photo by mark teppo

I've just started dreaming again. For a long time my sleep was constantly interrupted by an apnea condition and, since I stopped breathing every minute or so, I never really slept. At least not enough to dream. Now that I turn into Darth Vader at night -- I wear a plastic hose and mask getup which forces a constant stream of air into my lazy lungs -- my brain no longer has to be on suicide watch and can freely fantasize, and my skull is filled in the morning with the gossamer remnants of dreams. I wake up feeling rested because, for a few hours at least, I have been off in my own universe. And, for a little while in the morning, in these last few minutes between night and day, I get to revel in the fading light of those memories.

What I hate about dawn is that it signals the start of a regimen, a click-click-click of a schedule. Car, 12 minutes. Train, 45 minutes. Van, 14 minutes. Desk, eight hours. Van, train, car again. All metered out in perfect, exact slices of time. You vanish against such a metronomic background. You become a clock-watcher, a minute-stealer, a schedule-marcher. Your focus is only on the next item on your task list and which meetings you can't escape from today. "In order to stay on task, which action items must be dealt with today?" Now becomes lost. Now is just a transitory instant while you hurl yourself towards What's Next.

Right now, I'm watching a line of orange light stretch across the water. There are tiny motes in the water, tiny glints of orange light which aren't part of the longer cone which stretches back to the fat ball of the sun. Murcof's "Mara" is in my head, a tiny aria played out against fat beats and tiny chirping glitch elements. This is what this song looks like: orange light against quietly moving water.

The sun is 93 million miles away. What is currently burning my retinas is a memory of where the sun was nine minutes ago. Dawn may come at 5:22am, but already the day is moving ahead of you. By the time you see the sun, you're already nine minutes behind. Maybe that is why we start our days in such a rush: we're already late.

I picked through a number of CDs yesterday to find the music for this hour and I didn't spent a lot of time working on the particulars; I just grabbed songs which seemed to fit the moment. Now, as the hour finishes, and I've written these words, I understand my unconscious criteria. The songs couldn't be too fast or too slow; they had to hold a certain, stately pace. They had to exist without a conscious concern for time.

[ 5.46 am ]
photo by mark teppo

The fifth hour past midnight is the last hour of peace. This is the hour when everything is still, when everything heals itself, when we, sleeping in our beds, are at our most relaxed and innocent states. Nothing has happened yet. The world hesitates. Today has not yet arrived. We are on the cusp of morning. This is the hour of change. We have 60 minutes to invent ourselves anew. We have time yet to alter everything.

I end the hour with an excerpt from William Basinski's The River. Split across two CDs, The River is a piece of music that involves loops, shortwave radio signals, and spliced elements of transmission static. It is a piece that goes everywhere and nowhere; its progress is a matter of perception. If you listen to it carefully -- intently and without distractions -- there is a whole wealth of subsumed emotional content which it will bring out of you; if you listen hurriedly, it is aural wallpaper, sure to tint your room in a light, dawn-brushed tone of pink and yellow.

The choice is yours: fast or slow, Now or What's Next. Welcome to this day of your life.

5:00AM : DAWN

"The Hymn of the 7th Illusion"  Barry Adamson / Pan Sonic  Motorlab #3
"Le Grand Dome"  Biosphere  Cirque
"Outerside"  Fluxion  Vibrant Forms II
"Ice Floes in Eden"  Harold Budd  Lovely Thunder
"Village"  Hazard  Wind
"Staars"  High Skies  360: A Foundry Project
"Indigo"  Monolake  Cinemascope
"Mapa"  Murcof  Martes
"Plains"  Pan•American  The River Made No Sound
"Stars"  Peter Namlook  Silence III
"Palindrone.1"  Mitchell Akiyama  Hope That Lines Don't Cross
"Sunday's Shadows"  Rapoon  Darker By Night
"Broken Harbors, part 2"  Stars of the Lid  The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid
"The River, disc 1"(excerpt)  William Basinski  The River

[ 6.08 am ]
photo by mark teppo
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