::the city at sunrise::

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Every city should be seen at sunrise.

Today I went running at dawn over millennium bridge in the heart of London.  I left the hostel assuming to find many pre-work joggers swarming the sidewalks — until I realized that it was 6:30 on a Saturday. The streets that would be overwhelmed with throngs of tourists and city-dwellers only hours later were swept clean after a sleepy weekend twilight.

I ran along the street corners parallel to the river until I came to the bridge which would take me across the water to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.  There was no one on the bridge.  Odd, I mused.  But the isolation was a welcome reprieve.  For me, it's the same feeling as washing a long day off my skin.  Refresh.

Halfway across, I stopped to take in the sight I may never see again — the empty city, the open bridge, a straight shot of London, framed by the metal runway.  And as the sunlight was coming up, it illuminated the tip of St. Paul's cathedral.

It was just me and the city at dawn.

This whole trip, I've been so eager to explore the heart of London as it is meant to be felt that I've tried to take those slow, still moments to process.  Yet in the crowds, in the midst of "must-see's" and "have-to-do's" and guided tours, I feared missing it.  What could I possibly do or say, write or draw or photograph to reflect what I was experiencing?

I discovered today just how much I can't do London justice.  No picture or story can.  How could words depict the sheer majesty of St. Paul's, or how meek you feel on its steps, the crypt below you, the guarding angels posed in stone motion above?  People died for this, fought for it, protected it, wrote of it.  Who am I, an American stranger, to think I have something new?

And then I read Virginia Woolf, who seemed to live on every block in the West End, and I see Mrs. Dalloway's trek across Westminster.  I see all the places we've just been and it's like watching a movie only to wander onto its set the next day.

Oh London, what words can I use to describe you?
Beautiful is flat; for you are more than beauty. 
You are a pulsing heat wave of energy,
grand and powerful, encompassing

Being in London is like climbing into your favorite book, pulling the covers around you and snuggling down into its charm.  It's foreignly familiar.  So much is recognizable that you can't help the déjà vu feeling of having been here before, of walking past Big Ben, or the buses winding around streets around cars you always think are driverless for you haven't yet learned to look at the right side.  You see Bakers Street and think of Sherlock; Kings Cross Station and Harry Potter; St. Paul's and recall Julie Andrews' haunting lullaby in Mary Poppins.  London is the birthplace of so much, the cultivated homeland of modern culture, of plays and romantic tragedy, Tudors and Stuarts, always a fight and always a winner.

And you're lost in the very feel of it – or perhaps the way you think you're supposed to feel.

But sometimes you just need to run. You need to stop and breathe and see the city from a distance in the morning's golden strokes from heaven.  And you find yourself alone on the bridge at sunrise.  The light crests over the cathedral, dips across the Thames.  And you breathe in and think that for the first time, you can really see it.  London, as it was meant to be seen.

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  1. Thank you for putting this experience into words and images, Ciera. I am sorry I missed getting to be there with you, but it sounds like the experience was valuable anyway. I had a couple of similar morning runs this trip and they have been one of the best parts.

    I love your blog!

    1. Thanks girl! We'll have to go for a run along the coast sometime. I find that being out in the nature, in the stillness, illuminates a deeper level of any place. :)

    2. Yes please!!!

      I love how running can connect me to a place in different way.