Ackerman (An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain, 2004, etc.) luxuriates in the break of day.
The author experiences dawn as a powerful borderland that accommodates both dreaminess and awareness. She celebrates the sighting of a crane flying overhead and meditates on the use of the bird in Oriental art and Greek myth. Moving gracefully between erudition and whimsy, Ackerman demonstrates an intelligent, humble approach to science: “Science is a tribute to our cleverness, but we are fallible and we filter out so much of the world.” The book is arranged by season; the chapters are mostly short and rich with imagery and insight. The author is always comfortable following her fancy, whether considering a spider’s web illuminated at first light, the mechanics of sunflowers, an astounding daybreak cloud, a lover slipping away at dawn in The Pillow Book, Monet painting “the lavish spell of the senses detained by a pink and blue sunrise” or the “chatterbox chorale” coming through the window from all manner of bird, the best of which has got to be the crow: “I’m up, dammit. I’m up! I survived another night on this godforsaken planet! Beat that!”—an imagined greeting that reminds the author “that a mass of crows is called a murder of crows.”
A lovely, learned invitation to “the ancient thrill of impending sunlight.”