An unobstructed view of the Florida sunrise is among vacationing’s simple pleasures. (Luis Castaneda/Getty Images)

In the still-dark bedroom, I part the blinds and see two horizontal light-gray bands stretching across the sky.

Already, the pool boy next door is methodically working his skim net. I move to the balcony. Below, a man stands with his toes touching the eastern edge of the country, his cigarette blinking red, like a beacon for ships at sea.

Occasional liquid plops from jumping fish break the calm. Palm trees catch the wind, the rustling of their stiff fronds sounding like raindrops on concrete.

Gradually, a pink glow illuminates the faces of our gathering: a woman perched cross-legged, yoga-style, on the sea wall; a mother and her grown daughter; the couple who arrived at the resort in a convertible, top down, revealing a back seat stuffed with Louis Vuitton bags.

At 7:22 a.m., just as the red arc edges into view, a straggler rushes up with a camera tripod and says to no one in particular: “I’m a little late.”

Click. Sun’s up.

We join the solo smoker as others also drift toward the Atlantic, rumpled, coffee and cameras in hand, as if sleepwalking toward the dawn. Mostly silent, they nod “Mornin’ ” and stand at attention, their reverence lending dignity to bedpost clothes and pillow hair.

As if nature has called “Lights, camera, action,” an outboard motor chugs to life. “Good morning, little man,” the boat’s captain says to a barefoot boy on the dock.

Chairs scrape on pool decks. Birds cry. Grounds crews rake beach sand into Zen furrows. A fishing boat glides out to sea with a trail of gulls following like cans merrily bouncing behind a just-married sign.

Onshore, daylight dismisses the early spectators. A quieter group than typical sunset-watchers, the solar introverts dutifully depart.

Few places delineate the sunrise-sunset divide more clearly than Florida. And Florida’s Keys, where slim spits of land separate open ocean from the Gulf of Mexico, bring the morning-evening differences to a fine point. Among them, Key West is most famous for rituals marking day’s end. The evening rite even has its own name: the Sunset Celebration.

Unlike the quiet reverie of the dawn-watchers, the glow of the dusk crowd may be equally due to cocktails as it is to the red sky at twilight. Evening “sol searchers” are a better-dressed crowd, too, and they often bring applause and music.

Other than the personal style of the beholder and the position of the hands on the clock, is there any visual difference between the sun’s entry and exit on any given day? In human terms, yes, say David Lynch and William Livingston, the authors of “ Color and Light and Nature .”

They write, “At sunset, our eyes are daylight-adapted and may even be a bit weary from the day’s toil.” At sunrise, however, “the night’s darkness has left us with very acute night vision and every faint, minor change in the sky’s color is evident.”

The early bird catches the full spectrum, apparently.

In Islamorada, partway down the Keys, the logical chaser to witnessing sunrise is eggs — sunny side up, of course, and Key lime pie (topped with a cloud of meringue) at the Midway Cafe. That’s where we head after witnessing the sunrise (and after a little personal care with a comb).

The Midway — named for its address, at mile marker 80.5, nearly halfway down the Overseas Highway — also sits between the ocean and the gulf, a sort of east-west, high-noon location.

There, the late-sleeping flip-flop crowd queues up for coffee and croissants before setting off to fish, snorkel or kayak. In a few hours, those same tourists will shift to the west to salute the day’s solar bookend.

We vacationers can appreciate the sunrise (and sunset) at home, of course, in all its pink glory behind skyscrapers, rooftops, evergreens, mountains and freeway bridges. But the watery horizon seems the purest view.

A metaphor for vacation itself, obstructions are removed: It’s just you, the curve of the Earth and the hopeful reminder to rise and shine.

Powers is a freelance writer and editor in Detroit. Her Web site is

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