Klaxons and Whispers

March 17, 1999

The big red button on the outside of the steam sauna got me to thinking. Today I walked up to it, took a good close look, and then covered it with my hand. It's aluminum and it was once probably painted bright red. Even in it’s current dull and used state it gets your attention. It made me think about the kind of button you might push in a fire house, the bridge of a ship, or a submarine. Wham, someone smacks the button and alarm bells sound. Adrenaline flows, hearts pound, and legs fly.

The Klaxon.

Danger here! Be prepared!

That got me to thinking about my guardian angels. When I am laying back in the hot tub, are they resting, feet up on the table, or are they playing cards?

The way I see it, the problem is that they can’t be that relaxed, because they have to be alert, ready for the smack and the sound of the klaxon. The way my life seems to work, an angel sits in the "alert aircraft" at all times, ready to launch at the first sign of trouble.

Even that seems to be a poor metaphor, because they have reacted faster than the speed of light, at least so far.
But I was wondering, if on some days they get to chill.

Kick back…

or maybe just walk around.

The other morning on the way to work I stopped to watch the sunrise. Mentally I recorded it all but at that very moment in time I could not string the words together.

This morning I found the needle and the string.
Dawn broke over a frozen landscape. One of winter's last gasps had sent bone numbing arctic air across our state. Jack Frost visited with a vengeance. The earth had been painted a crystalline white that caught the light and made it dance.

I turned my car left into a dead end street and slowly lurched through the rutted snow. To my left was the lake and I was searching for a spot to sit and watch between house and home, castle and cottage. This is a private road the sign said. Funny I thought, is it a private sunrise?

I found no good place to park. Disappointed I turned around and drove back out to the end of the street. Just as I was about to leave I noticed a small sign that said Boat Launch. Great I thought, no hostile neighbors to frighten this morning. "MOM, there's a MAN in our yard!"

I parked right there at the end of the street. I was only partially equipped for the cold. Gloveless I thrust my hands into the upper parka pockets. My ears tingled. It was 15 degrees and as I headed for the water’s edge I tried to step into another set of footprints, since tennis shoes don't provide much protection from the sub zero cold and snow.

As I faced the rising sun I looked across the narrow lake that was set down among low hills. Everything was covered with crystal. Before me, the shaft of sunlight crossed open water, thin patches of snow, and several hundred feet of clear new ice. Earlier in the week the lake had been trying to break free from its winter cover. The water near the shore had already melted, but it had been no match for the bitter cold of that night.

I watched the sun make a golden path across that ice. The new ice that appeared to be smooth and perfect, surrendered into ridges and flaws that were accented by the glare. It was a great moment. The air was almost perfectly still. All around the lake steam rose from chimneys straight into the sky. It made me think of accountants dancing.

But what held me transfixed that morning was a patch of open water. A continuous wisp of steam boiled off of the water and caught a flicker of wind. It was slow, lithe, and mystical. The mist danced in a tiny swirl and then disappeared into the morning light.

Dance, twirl and it was gone. Over and over, wisps of steam moved with silent grace.

It was still, quiet, and cold.

I watched until the protestations of my feet overwhelmed the beauty in front of my face.

I realized today what I saw.

I watched the breath of an angel dance across the water.
No Klaxon this morning. No alarms or panic.

It was just a special moment on a morning after a rough night.

It must have been an angel headed home after a long night of work.

Some days you need a klaxon. . .

Some days you need a whisper.