Most of us recognize sunrise as the streak of light searing through the window blinds straight into our closed eyelids. At least once a year, though, we should stop fighting it and celebrate the dawn as the ancients did: at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Not actually in Cahokia, Illinois, this National Historic Landmark is just eight miles from downtown Collinsville, the site of an annual celebration of the summer solstice. In the shadow of earthen giant Monks Mound, which rises a hundred feet and covers fourteen acres, dawn devotees and Native American-culture nuts gather in the early morning hours (we're talking 5 a.m., people) in the center of Woodhenge, a replica of the solar calendar used by the Mississippian people who lived here more than 700 years ago. Mist hangs low in the floodplain, and there's a hush as the sun breaks over the trees, sending out a streak of light that aligns with the central post. As you climb the steps to the top of Monks Mound, you can look west at St. Louis emerging from the haze. It's the longest day of the year. You have 364 days to block out this giant, gassy star, so look east, straight into the sun.
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