It was worth rising before the sun to watch the first rays slowly creeping over the tree tops. I’ve grown up on the rivers and bays of Virginia, and no matter where else in the world I’ve watched a sunrise, there is something unique about the way the mist floats above the smooth surface of the water, signaling the intense southern humidity that is certain to follow in the coming hours. A few fishing boats float quietly in the shadows of the riverbank, but otherwise the only movements come from the occasional heron skimming across the surface and from the dock, as it shifts under the weight of my feet.

The name of this river, “Occoquan,” comes from the Dogue Indian word meaning “at the end of the water.” Just out of range of my lens, my dog whines softly, hoping I’ll unclip her leash and allow her to dive into the water and hunt whatever lies just beneath the surface. I hold onto her until the inevitable morning water traffic fully comes to life and her splashing no longer seems an offense against the still-sleeping river gods. Together we watch the river change from misty green to rose pink as the sun finally raises her sleepy head and awakens the world at the end of the water.

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