Saturday, October 2, 2010

To The Morning

I wake up early. I always have. It’s not exactly insomnia, although I have more than my share of sleepless nights. I just get up early.

On school nights I set my alarm for 5:05 AM. Most often I am lying awake when the alarm beeps, or I simply shut it off and slip out of bed trying not to wake up Heidi. On Saturdays it is the same deal. It may not be 5 AM, but usually it is not long after. It is a good time to be awake. By the time anyone else is awake in the house, I have usually checked email, checked for new blog posts, scanned the headlines on the internet (the paper doesn’t usually come until around 7). Maybe I’ll write, read a few chapters in my current book. I pet up the dog who then goes back to sleep – twitching and snorting in her rabbit chasing dreams.

Being awake while the world is still dark has its rewards. Witnessing the birth of a new day is quiet, spiritual, uplifting. Our neighbor, Kay, is an early riser on weekdays as well. I see her with her flashlight beam, walking her dog Oreo for his early morning constitutional. From late spring to early fall I often get to see the sunrise from our house in the woods. Almost always on Saturdays. Later it is from my car on the way to work, or from my classroom in the dead of winter.

Sunrise in the woods is not the drastic, wonderful photo opportunity it is where there is a view of the horizon. It happens in subtle shifts. It is a pale, gradual change. When it is hot and muggy, as it is so often here, a morning breeze signals a change in the earth’s respiration.

Forest Floor Spring Ferns

The light changes subtly in the sky and doesn’t alter the color of the forest right away. When the sky is clear, as it is today, the pastels of morning light descend slowly, filtered through the tall pine boughs and lower sweetgum and oaks. Finally the dogwoods and redbuds, just beginning their fall change, add their color as the morning sunlight dapples the soft forest floor. Sunrise takes its sweet time here, but it is no less beautiful than the sunrise in the mountains, or in the desert or on the coast. It is a slow gentle change, and you have to sit with it and breath it in and study it to appreciate it fully.

Spring Sunshine Walking Trail

Leaves stir, and perhaps this awakens the songbirds as much as the first rays of light. As I sit in our back porch the usuals show up for breakfast at the seed feeders. Mourning doves first call from a distance to each other before flying in, their coo sad sounding to me as it reminds me of the dove's brief but meaningful place in The Education of Little Tree. These birds usually eat the leftovers, which have fallen from the feeders. Their bodies don’t fit well under the overhang on our feeders which keep the rain out of the seed. But there is plenty on the ground for them.

picture of Mourning Dove

Cardinals are among the early eaters. The flashy bright red male is almost always accompanied by his mate. He is the bold one who seems to enter the feeding area heedless of anything. When people think of cardinals, they almost always think of the males with their boldness and conspicuous style. The females are the clever ones it seems to me, with their soft brown and sharp crest and warm red edges. She is the cautious one, the camouflaged one, and necessarily so. Let the males get all of the attention.

Chickadees and sparrows are the frightened ones. They zoom in, grab sunflower seeds and zoom out to a nearby tree to crack open their bounty. The are skittish and deferential to the others. Theirs is the sneaking, crafty feeding. They are opportunistic and wait patiently for an opening.

This morning a gang of blue jays swooped in, bullying the others merely with their presence. They don’t seem to relish the seed like some of the others. They, like the intelligent, raucous crows, just seem to shovel out the seed onto the ground, maybe get a sunflower seed or two and then fly away carelessly. Then the others, the titmouse, wrens, house finches and brilliant goldfinch come in two and three at a time, patiently taking turns not seeming to waste any of the seed, even the millet.

butterfly pictures, butterflies picture

As the day comes on stronger and full light reaches everywhere not shaded by leaves, the butterflies and bumble bees arrive. This morning there are several brilliant cloudless sulphurs on the butterfly bushes along with yellow and black swallowtails and a solitary monarch, no doubt on its lengthy migration south. There are gulf fritillaries on the lantana, lots of them, fresh and perfect since they have just emerged from their chrysalises.

Other neighbors wake, the paper is delivered and my own household stirs on this beautiful October Saturday. In a way I hate to share this day, this quiet alone time with the animals and plants and the earth as she awakens. Before the sounds of other humans I can imagine that this is how the earth came alive for thousands, hundreds of thousands of years.

And it is satisfying to be a small part of it, my own breathing shallow, my own heart beating in synch with the natural order of things, even for just a little while.

To the Morning - by Dan Fogelberg

Watching the sun

Watching it come

Watching it come up over the rooftops.

Cloudy and warm

Maybe a storm

You can never quite tell

From the morning.


And it's going to be a day

There is really no way to say no

To the morning.

Yes it's going to be a day

There is really nothing left to

Say but

Come on morning.

Waiting for mail

Maybe a tail

From an old friend

Or even a lover.

Sometimes there's none

But we have fun

Thinking of all who might

Have written.

And maybe there are seasons

And maybe they change

And maybe to love is not so strange.

The sounds of the day

They hurry away

Now they are gone until tomorrow.

When day will break

And you will wake

And you will rake your hands

Across your eyes

And realize

That it's going to be a day

There is really no way to say no

To the morning.

Yes it's going to be a day

There is really nothing left to say but

Come on morning.


Chris Hass said...

Hey, you did a beautiful job of capturing the peacefulness and wonder of early mornings in the woods. And you're right too, there's something about experiencing it alone that makes you almost wish you could hold onto it just a little bit longer.

I woke up early our final day at the Virginia cabin this summer. I made my way out to the porch and just sat there waiting for the sun to rise up from behind the mountains. Looking around, all I saw were trees, mountains, and the changing colors of the sky. It was the type of moment that would be ruined by conversation.

Do you remember in Steven King's short story, The Body, when Gordie sees the deer? He's been in the woods with his buddies in search of this dead kid's body and when he sees the deer he is so moved that he decides not to share it with anyone. He needs to keep it to himself even though he's not sure anyone else would understand why. I think the quiet solitude of morning is a lot like that deer.

When we camp far out in the woods I really love the mornings when I wake up first. I just lie there and listen to the forest. I don't dare get out of the tent for fear of waking someone up and losing that moment.

Thanks for the great post. It was one of my favorites.

Lastly, we saw the movie tonight and I agree - Ben Afleck was really good. Go figure!

Anonymous said...

I agree, beautiful post.
I have never, ever, been a morning person. Wanted to be, but I'm just not. I'm a little jealous.
I think if I dug deeply I could find dusk, evening, and late night memories as clear, as palpable.

My dear friend Cile's husband used to laugh at me when I stayed on the farm because I always got up so late. He had been up for HOURS. He told me it was the reason I didn't have a boyfriend then - I hadn't seen enough sunrises.
I didn't have a chance to tell him that Charles and I were engaged overlooking the Mediterranean at sunrise.
Miss you my friend.

Ruth said...

Tim, you are a great writer! I wish I could write like you. There is a great place in New Mexico, White Sands National Monument, that allows a few campers. Waking up in White Sands is like waking up on the moon. Most of the wildlife have evolved to white (snakes, lizards, moths, insects, etc), the sounds are white, the shadows are white. When you sign in with the rangers you get a little pamphlet with pictures telling you not to pick up the unexploded ordinances from WWII when the US armed forces tested all their junk around there. It is not too far from Trinity nuclear testing site. Oh yeah, in the 1960's a herd of oryx, exotic long horned antelope, were imported from Africa, fearing their extinction, and they have thrived there. So, what a mixed bag waking up on the moon is in New Mexico! Love you, Tim! Ruthie

smooth said...

Hi Tim, I just wanted to say we miss you and Heidi.I love reading your life experiences.Makes me realize the joys and beauty I take for granted keep up the good work. Much love to you both and the boys..Tauba