'Sunrise Serenity': How a Port Stanley, Ont. woman connects with her late son at daybreak
PORT STANLEY, ONT. -- Every morning when the sun peers over Lake Erie in Port Stanley, Ann Stevens is there, camera in hand.
"This is heaven on earth and nature at its finest," says Stevens, who wakes up at 4 a.m. and has seen every daybreak in the village for years.
Whether it’s a brilliant sunrise, or a torrential downpour Stevens never knows what she'll see until she arrives at the water’s edge.
"There are no two mornings alike," she says. "Even in the winter, there are spectacular days. When it's teeming down and you can't see because the snowflakes are hitting your eyes, it’s still beautiful and majestic. The force of the lake and what it can draw is incredible."
Sharing photos and videos online with her community, her captures are often the first thing residents see when they wake up.
Knowing people take joy in her work helps drive her to return to the water each day.
Stevens has four generations of family in the fishing village, and 19 years ago she decided to return permanently.
Four years later, she opened the Little Beach Shop on Main Street.
It's inside where she displays and sells her stunning and brilliant photos in a section called #TheJoeyProject.
"The #JoeyProject is an endeavor to show everyone what sunlight means to me," says Stevens. "It's in honour of our youngest son Joey."
Joey was born with a rare chromosome 1q deletion.
"The tip of his first chromosome went missing, it was an absolute fluke," explains Stevens. "When he passed away, as losing any child would do to a family it tore us apart."
Joey lived for one year and 23 days. Saturday March 6, would have been Joey's 18th birthday.
To cope and connect, she seeks sunrise serenity at her favourite place, Little Beach.
With the exception of a few days to visit one of her other sons in Montreal, she's been on the beach during sun, rain or snow every day for years.
"I couldn't go a day without being at the beach," says Stevens. "At sunrise when I see the horizon, the sunrise, I'm one step closer to heaven, one step closer to Joey."