My attempt to document 40 sunrises in Eastern Cincinnati. Spring 2011.

Manifesto

Who?

My name is Blaine and I live in Mt. Lookout, Cincinnati Ohio. (Follow on twitter?, “Like” on Facebook?) I love life, city parks, biking, photography, Cincinnati, coffee, craft beer, coffee, and nature.  There is so much to explore.  But sometimes you’ve gotta get up 2 hours early to do it!  This blog will record my attempt to see 40 sunrises throughout the coming spring (and probably more in the summer).  It will be a substantial challenge and in fact it may be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  Let’s do this.

Before we get started, you may want to check out the first post, and definitely the Ault Park Sunrise map. My email address is AultParkSunrise@gmail.com. I’m always accepting sunrise pictures from all over, I’d love to include yours with one of my posts.

I’ve also had some media coverage from the Eastern Hills Journal.

Why?

There are many facets to this project.  I will probably update this almost weekly.  There are many things that make sense about me doing this project, most of which I consider side effects of my attempts to “become more aware”, so to speak, about my place here (both in time – daily life, my young adult life, and my lifetime, in space – here in Cincinnati, and as a young American, and as a human being).  Here are a few reasons why I’m doing this:

  • Practicality: I’m hoping that this project will teach me to be better with my time management.  I have a really bad habit of sleeping in.  The only way I can seem to break this habit is by creating time-sensitive appointments early in the morning.  As of this writing, I am working part time at a small software development company while also pursuing my master’s degree in computer science.  My courses are all finished and all that is left is to finish my thesis project.  This leaves me with an open schedule that I recognize is not fully utilized.  By publishing to this blog, I am creating a kind of “real” accountability for myself.  I hope to engage other people (mostly just my friends and family) through this project page, which will in turn give me a reason to complete it.
  • Punctuality: One of the hardest things for me is getting up early when I don’t have to.  I’ve been known to “accidentally” get 14 hours of sleep.  Because I view getting up early as a serious personal challenge, by succeeding in this project I actually succeed in starting off every day accomplishing something great.  It may seem insignificant, but it does wonders for my productivity to know that a major daily goal can be checked off before I even get my breakfast in.
  • Fitness and Mobility: Did I mention that the other major player in this project is my Bike? Ault Park is at the top of a mountain.  Each commute to the overlook from Mt. Lookout Square is an excruciating, but short trip, for someone who is not in shape (like myself!).  By biking to Ault Park and back every morning, at the minimum I get a nice 30 minute workout.  I hope that over time I will notice the commute getting easier and easier as the days go by.  A great side effect of this is that I will be putting myself into a position to go on longer bike rides in the summer.  Perhaps even the Great Ohio Bike Adventure! I’ve only been biking for about a year now (and just as a hobby; I don’t even have any of those fancy biker clothes yet).  I don’t bike to work (although I’ve considering it).  But to me, a bike is something that is empowering.  It has all the benefits of a motorcycle, without the expenses.  I’ll just leave you with my favorite quote from a great book.

    “In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”
    Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values)–
    And another one that I see come up quite a bit.
    “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.  Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”
    Ernest Hemingway
  • Appreciation of my surroundings: I recently realized exactly how lucky I am to live within 2 miles of two of the most beautiful parks in Cincinnati.  When I originally moved to Mt. Lookout, it was out of sheer serendipity (there was an opening in a house that several of my friends were moving into).  3 years later, my wife and I still live in the area and have come to appreciate how beautiful it is.  Now that it is spring time, I am trying to really take advantage of how easy it is to get around with my bike.  I’d hate to move one day to somewhere far away from a forest or park, and think back about my time in Mt. Lookout and say “If only I would have appreciated what was around me.”… well that’s exactly what I’m trying to do now.  I’m also hoping that what it teaches me, as far as life lessons are concerned, is that there is beauty everywhere, especially if you’re outdoors, but it is up to me to discover it.  I can only hope that I’m forming some good habits for the rest of my life; this project could hopefully plant some seeds that will blossom for years to come.  Sometimes you just have to make the time, even if it is inconvenient, and force yourself to just take it easy.
  • Recognition.  This plays a small, but important, part of this project. Cincinnati parks are beautiful.  So many front yards and gardens of local residents are beautiful.  I want to share the history and rare photogenic opportunities that I come across.  But one other thing that I want to recognize is something that I’ve only recently been aware of myself.  Cincinnati is actively investing into their biking infrastructure.  As I write this there are legs of a new trail that are under construction and slated to be finished in 2011.  Two of those legs are right smack dab in the middle of eastern Cincinnati.  By having this project up and running, I have an excuse to explore the new trails and tell everyone I know about them.  The two I am specifically referring to is the Armletter to Lunken trail, which will be awesome because it will allow me to go from Ault Park down into the basin of Armletter (which you can see from the overlook), and back up.  This wouldn’t have been possible without the new trail because the trail goes under Beechmont Avenue, which is a very busy 4-lane freeway.  The other trail is part of the project that is attempting to connect the Little Miami Trail (which is the longest paved trail in the country, connecting up to Springfield, OH and beyond as part of the Rails to Trails project) to Lunken Airport, and then down past the Ohio River to Downtown Cincinnati.  More information here.
  • Taking a step back to peer in on contemporary culture: I can’t ignore the fact that I live in a busy city.  As of this writing, the sun is coming up at about 7:15am.  That means that by the time I get to the park and watch the sun rise, a lot of people are already on their way to work.  Automobile noise travels quite a ways in a wide river valley.  But as the sun comes up earlier and earlier, I imagine I’ll start to notice the volume of cars down in the valley below start to trickle down to almost nothing.  I imagine a day in the early summer, being in the park at 06:00am, and hearing almost no traffic.  The traffic sounds will slowly build with the calls of the birds, until the city is awake and flowing.  I suppose all I’m saying is that I’m not out on some mountain somewhere, in isolation.  The “city” in “city park” is an important character that I shouldn’t overlook.  This is especially true if you compare the traffic volume on a Thursday morning vs a Sunday morning at the same time.  You can tell a lot about any society and culture by observing morning routines.  I always feel like I’m peering in on some kind of urban ritual when I discover that in fact it is recycling day and all the homes have produced at the foot of their driveways identical green plastic 2-wheeled receptacles.  Before my “normal” day starts, this is a reminder that there are civic services that are functioning (and functioning well!) behind the scenes of every day life.
  • Went for the caffeine, stayed for the flowers: The serenity and relaxation of being in a park at sunrise is like something I haven’t experienced in my recent years.  Being there is like creating secret between me and the forest (Does that sound weird? That sounds weird).  I am typically by myself, alone in listening to the birds flirt and flicker, alone in smelling the fresh dew or seeing the thick valley fog being lifted away by the first rays of light.  It gives me comfort, knowing that the parks and city forests are taken care by the tax paying citizens of Cincinnati, and are full of life.  Another interesting side effect that I have noticed is that for the rest of the day I pay attention to where the sun is.  When I go to work at 9:00am, I think to myself “wow, that sun is high in the sky already.  I remember when it just started”.  There is something here to say about the history of our species, and our religious reverence towards the sun, giver of all things Gaia, but I can’t quite pull it down.  Seeing the sun rise, and being “in the moment”, fulfills some kind of ancient appetite that I can’t get living in a temperature controlled, artificially lit, comfortable modern home.  It reminds me that life doesn’t have to be high-strung and fast paced because it is already going to go by so quickly.  Life can be simple, and enjoyable, but I have to take (and make) the time for it.  With the sun rising, I can feel the upcoming day, pregnant with purpose and drive.  But there are also only so many times the sun will rise in my lifetime.  As they say – every day you’re the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest you’re going to be.  We have to make the best of every day, because one day there’ll be no more.

By the power vested in me as proprietor of this thing, I hereby announce that this is the official video of the “Ault Park Sunrise” project.  From the movie I Heart Huckabees.

and here is the unofficial anthem:

Be good to one another.  -Blaine

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14 responses

  1. Tom

    Hi Blaine, I enjoyed out discussion today on Alms Park history as I was walking my Golden before the storms rolled in. Your “Sunrise” project is definitely a worthwhile effort. I am enjoying the photos you have posted.

    April 9, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    • Tom, thank you so much for your feedback! It was great talking with you, too. I hope to see you around the parks sometime! Feel free to ask me if you have any questions about geocaching 🙂 -Blaine

      April 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm

  2. Aunt Gay

    Good Luck on your endeavor! I think it’s wonderful that you are enjoying the mornings. Now if only you could talk your Uncle Scott into something like this. Love the mornings and the peace and serenity of them. The sunrises are beautiful that you have taken. Do something for 30 days and it becomes a habit – 40 should do the trick too. LOL Enjoy the area and the sunrises. I saved one of your flower pictures for my screen saver. Keep em coming!

    April 10, 2011 at 8:14 am

    • Haha. Thanks Aunt Gay! I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying this. I’m glad you liked the flower pictures; while I’m not the best photographer I feel like a macro picture of a flower is really hard to mess up! It is my favorite kind of picture to take… mostly because when you look at the picture, you realize that the viewpoint is typically not something you see from the “humans eye view”. Love, Blaine

      April 11, 2011 at 11:08 am

  3. krs

    it’s a nice sounding project. i love taking the camera to ault park never as early as sunrise though. good luck with the project, i’m eager to follow along. maybe i’ll even try to get up for sunrise myself and take some pictures of the park. not poking in on your idea, just to take some new pictures and see if i could wake up that early.

    April 12, 2011 at 10:08 am

    • thanks for stopping by krs! ault park is meant to be enjoyed by everyone, you’d certainly not be stepping on any toes. if you do end up stopping by, come say hi @ heekin overlook! every morning so far has been unique, i don’t know why this has surprised me so much.

      i’d check the forecast, the best pictures are on days when a front is expected to come through (like how the weather was awesome on sunday, and then rain showed up at 8:00am monday)… not days like today 🙂

      April 12, 2011 at 10:13 am

  4. Hi Blaine!

    Good luck – and above all much fun – with your project!

    About time management:
    You should definitely consider “Getting Things Done” by David Allen and “Zen to Done” by Leo Babauta. Also by Leo is “The Power of Less” – highly recommended. He has an interesting blog worth visiting, too.

    Cheers,

    Timo

    April 15, 2011 at 3:04 am

    • Thanks Timo! I’ve read GTD and used the system my senior year, but haven’t gone back to it. Zen to done sounds awesome, thanks for the tips. Your photography is awesome, I’m having a great time browsing your site. Thanks again for the comment!

      April 15, 2011 at 4:47 pm

  5. Like your site. Found it at Visualingual.
    I agree with Hemingway.
    1 request, and since you’re into history anyway, cemeteries.
    “No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn.”

    May 20, 2011 at 9:26 am

    • Thanks Quimbob. What a powerful quote, for sure.

      Are you requesting that I check out some local cemeteries? A great request if so. There is a “Pioneer Cemetary” down by Lunken Airport that I haven’t documented yet. Pre-1800s settlers to Columbia-Tusculum, back in the time when “Indians” were a real threat and there was no such thing as “Cincinnati”, or even “Losantiville” yet.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      May 20, 2011 at 10:32 am

  6. bob dugan

    Blaine
    Great endeavor and amazing pictures. A major civic contribution that the Park Board should formally recognize. Maybe I will see you in one of the parks some morning.
    Best regards
    Bob

    January 19, 2012 at 11:08 am

    • Thanks so much Bob. It’s been great for me, so far. If you see a guy running around Heekin Overlook, possibly lying in the mulch taking picture of trees and/or the sky, please stop by and say hello!

      Blaine

      January 19, 2012 at 11:29 am

  7. Because I enjoy and admire your blog so much, I have nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger award;. http://maxreynolds.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/nominated-for-the-kreativ-blogger-award/ Please do not feel any pressure to accept the award, I understand if you don’t wish to participate. I appreciate your support of my blog.

    March 22, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    • Max,

      Thank you so kindly for the nomination. I’ll do a more formal acceptance at a later time. I like the light hearted nature of the award, it’s like an informal way to recognize other projects, something I don’t do enough on here.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:12 am

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