There is a peace at sunrise that surpasses all understanding. A renewal. A feeling that anything is possible. I’d like to say I drag myself from the comfort of my bed every day to enjoy the sunrise’s splendor, but you wouldn’t believe me and I would be lying. What is true is I was there that day and so was she. There is a connection between sunrisers just because they are sunrisers, but Delilah would have drawn me in no matter the time of day.
I was sitting there, at my favorite secret spot, overlooking Lake Quinault. It’s a hidden gem in Washington State owned by the Quinault Indian Nation, and if I had my way, no one would ever sit and admire its beauty other than me. Oh and Delilah. Definitely Delilah.
The lake, a destination point for fishermen, swimmers, and sight seers, is proof that God exists and is located deep in the Olympic National forest. In an era where more people have flat screen TV’s than tents, Lake Quinault is a reminder of the reasons for taking vacations as the sunrise over the lake is the very definition of must-see.
It was early summer, and to catch the sun as it appeared over the mountain, I had to be in place just after 5:00 a.m. Summer is the best time to watch the sunrise because no one in his or her right mind, other than me, would be up early enough nor be hardy enough to make the journey to my secret spot.
“Is this seat taken?”
Not many people can remember the first words spoken by or to the love of their life, but I absolutely can. As I turned to see from where the voice was coming, the first light of dawn revealed the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. Not all men might have said the same thing. Delilah wore no makeup, ripped jeans, and a faded brown hoodie. Her hair, perfectly light red, looked as if it hadn’t been touched since she rolled out of bed that morning, yet her smile and her inner spark couldn’t be hidden by tattered jeans or a faded hoodie or even the disinterest she showed in her hair. She was beautiful. At that moment, surprisingly, unexpectedly, delightfully, I wanted nothing more than to share my sunrise with her.
That being said and also being undeniably true, I was still a guy so I responded welcomingly: “It’s a free country.” With that, she invaded my secret spot, both on the lake and in my heart.
The silence that followed was both loud and revealing. Delilah wasn’t there for small talk or to meet me; she was there to admire the beauty of sunrise. We sat in silence and watched as the sun peaked its warming light over the horizon, we carried on a conversation in perfect silence. She wordlessly told me she understood the moment, and I responded in kind that the moment was made all the more special because she was there to share it.
It was the most beautiful conversation, and at that moment I realized that my being alone was only important until the one person with whom I was destined to be with found her way into my life.
Perfection is a goal impossible to realize in this mortal realm, but that morning came as close as is humanly possible. So many thoughts ran through my mind as the sun revealed itself completely. Then just as quickly and quietly as she had come, Delilah rose to her feet, wiped some residual dirt from the seat of her ripped jeans, and headed down the trail and out of my sight.
Eight words verbalized, an infinite number of combinations of events contemplated. Thirty minutes passed, a lifetime imagined. I was sure I would never see her again, and I was impossibly sad at the thought.
Five years, five long years since that day at the lake. First dates, first kisses, words “I love you” spoken, yet every time fate or intention would reach down and sabotage promise. I became determined to find peace in my solitude.
There was a reason or an excuse for my ending every potential relationship, but at its core was a sunrise and a conversation that didn’t happen.
I went to our spot from time to time, to see the sunrise, not for her. At least, that’s what I told myself. Five years of disappointing sunrises. Five years of disenchanting beauty. I had given up without realizing I was hoping. Hoping to see her again. Hoping to feel what I felt that day. And then hoping she would be there.
“Is this seat taken?”
“It’s a free country.”
The same eight words. Just as five years earlier.
At the time, I didn’t know that she, too, had often made the trip back to our secret spot.
Seeing her, I knew I wouldn’t let the opportunity slip from my grasp, not a second time. When the sun had accomplished its part in our play and when she rose to her feet and started to wipe the dirt from her jeans the same way she had done five years earlier, I stood as well and said the first original words between us.
“My name is Peter. I don’t like coffee, but I’d really like to have a cup with you.”
“My name is Delilah, and I would be glad to share a cup of Joe.”
She called it Joe? It’s funny the things that confirm that a love is real. I couldn’t tell her that day, for fear of losing her, but at that moment, I was sure. I had said “I love you” to others before, but it was obvious to me that I had lied. For in that moment, I was finally sure what love felt like.
Lifetimes are only lifetimes when viewed from the end. A cup of coffee became a dinner date. A dinner date became a commitment. A commitment became a proposal, and a proposal became forever. There were kids and dogs and vacations, but more than anything, there were trips to Lake Quinault. Always at sunrise. Always just the two of us. Never any words.
You never know the last time is the last time until it’s too late. The last trip we took to Lake Quinault was like all the rest. It took a little longer for tired, old bones to make the trek, but we found our spot, sat together, and conversed in silence. The sun, unaffected by time, rose as perfectly as always, but Delilah rose only with my help.
“Would you like to share a cup of Joe?”
She knew I did. She knew sitting next to her pretending to like coffee was my greatest pleasure. She knew it was the last time even though I was too stubborn to see it.
That day in the café, we told stories of family and friends, living and lost, as we sipped on what had eventually become my favorite beverage. We made a mental scorecard of our life without admitting what we were doing, and we realized we had won.
Two days later I lost her. Just like that first day at the lake, I watched her as she left me alone, this time without even the hope of return. The sadness I felt from years back flooded over me like a tidal wave.
I’ll save a seat for you. Those were her last words to me.
True to myself, and being a guy, I replied: “It’s a free country.” Then, she was gone.
One day, hopefully soon, I will watch the sunrise with my Delilah again from a far better secret place, but until then, I only go to our place at night.
I’m never alone when I go there. I make my way to our spot and sit down just as I did all those years ago. As the moon reflects off the lake, I feel her comforting hand reach down for me and in the silence only we understand I hear her very clearly.