Mornings are the best time of the day. It’s not even open for debate, as far as I’m concerned. New day, new start, fresh eyes, fresh breath, another chance. If it can be said that the timespan of a single day represents the most perfect and compact metaphor for the cycle of life, then daybreak is quite clearly the most optimistic and promising part of that trope. The literal light of morning makes the world look more innocent, more beautiful, but there’s a thing, as well, about people. People are better. Aside from the obvious, which is that the weight and responsibility of our hectic day has not yet worn us down, there is something else. There is the secret and inarticulate knowledge that here, again, is another opportunity to fulfill our innate potential for discovering pure joy. Another chance to be the best example of ourselves.
Listen to the guy, who rarely gets out of bed before noon, wax all poetic about feeling alive at daybreak. If you’re humping a nine to five, or must rise early for work as a full-time gig, you’re probably rolling your eyes right about now. And I get it. I haven’t always had my sleep cycle trained to a vampire clock. I know what it’s like when the grind of routine—even when it happens in the glow of a fresh new day—numbs you to the senses and all you can see is the tedium of the job ahead, some awful meeting you must brace for, or the stop and go of traffic that you’re trapped in.
Today I enjoyed a rare opportunity to be awake and about at sunrise. To be more specific: I forced myself to get up in the pre-dawn chill, bumble into some clothes, and head out with my camera. I took my tripod, intending to grab some slower exposures of the murky morning light, but I forgot the little bracket needed to mount the camera, so everything I caught was hand-held, smudged with unseeable motion. Still, it was great to be out at that hour. Foggy and damp New Orleans stretching and sitting up in bed. I headed straight for the river, hoping that the heavy blanket of fog would lift just enough for me to capture one of those brilliant, moody postcard-worthy shots. Alas, not so much. The fog was so heavy, I couldn’t see past the narrow strip of embankment that skirts along the river.
As all locals know, the Big River dances that familiar path there. It curls an inverted U, underlining the French Quarter on it’s way to the Gulf, to release itself into the anonymity of endless sea. The skinny stretch of shoreline is strewn with sparse shrubs and stones; scrawny and muscled, sky-reaching stumps; sometimes the detritus of the insomniac city that it cradles. I could hear the horns of a moving ship receding upriver and the constant gentle slap of the Mississippi waters canoodling with the narrow bank.
The joggers own the Riverwalk at this hour. You see their bobbing dark shapes emerging through the haze, moving closer and then past you in near-silent huffing rhythms. From there I walked down past the French Market and Cafe du Monde, with it’s marauding aromas. Decatur and Royal Streets were practically empty, save for some sparse traffic, but Bourbon Street was coming to life (which is not to infer that it ever truly sleeps.)
Morning in the Quarter is strange and eerily quiet, and Bourbon Street belongs to it’s keepers: merchants and porters hosing down sidewalks; the swoosh and whir of the sanitation trucks that wash the streets and gutters; delivery trucks chugging in starts and stops; the very occasional tourists in pairs, bundled in camera and morning coffee.
That’s me, I realized. You never feel more like a tourist in your own city than when you’re stalking down Bourbon Street at 7am with a camera bag slung over your shoulder.
Sometimes, with these journals, an emotion or expression or specific subject will inspire a story, and the images will then support the words. Other times, I will break a habit and rise before the sun, make my way into the streets, and go off on a quest for images of something specific. Today, it seems, was more about venturing into the fog than it was about shooting it.