Sunrise at "Pretty Place"

By Avery McGaha

This morning, as the Milky Way spanned the starry skies above Green River Preserve, our campers willingly awoke, to hike into South Carolina, to a place of great reverence. Today was the “Pretty Place” hike, where nearly the entire camp made the long trek, from base camp to Fred W. Symmes Chapel (also known as “Pretty Place”), located at the YMCA Camp Greenville.

It’s one thing to hear about the beauty of “Pretty Place,” and something completely different to actually be there, to see it and feel it for yourself. As the pale, predawn light of the horizon took over the last blue hues of the night skies, a crescent moon could be seen, high in the East. A soft grey cloud stretched across the length of the edge of the visible world. The silence was broken only be the click-clap of my camera shutter, the soft pattering footsteps of campers as they file into the benches and
the twittering of birds as they wake to the warming light of the new day.

Any time I’m photographing an area of utter silence, it is a humbling experience and throughout, I am silently asking for forgiveness for any intrusion of the moment. For the half-hour or so leading up to sunrise, there were few words spoken and a calmness of mind and spirit that could not—and should not—be interrupted. I walked as I imagine an ancient tracker would sneak upon his prey, forming each step in a way that would not take away from the reverence and the feeling of unparalleled stillness.

As to not deprive our campers of those few seconds of the sun cresting the deeply forested mountains, I found a spot (with some help—thanks Anne!) apart from the crowd, to capture that fiery ball of light as it welcomed us with it’s warmth. The first sliver of orange began to glow over the edge of the physical realm and mystical melodies of a wood flute began to play, by whom I can only imagine was one of our esteemed Mentors. With the completion of the Sun’s emergence into the sky, the entire community sang “Win-de-ya-ho” to give thanks and appreciation for all this wonderful life has given us.

With watery eyes, I sang along, while capturing a sunrise I shall not soon forget.

Story by Brandon S. Marshall
Photos by Brandon S. Marshall & Samantha J. Keebler