And that is just the point… how the world, moist and beautiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. “Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?”
~ Mary Oliver
For the past few months, I’ve been waking up around 5 or 5:30 in the morning. It’s still dark and if the morning is especially cold, I don’t always leave the bed right away. Instead, I burrow down under the covers, snuggling into the warmth of the bed and M and (very likely) the cats who like to sleep on either side of my legs. Our waterbed is a king sized bed but it often feels smaller. We sleep, especially on chilly mornings, in a puppy pile. It’s lovely to take a little time to enjoy the cozy sweetness of it all. It’s also a gentle way to wake up to the day and to the world.
When I get up, and after the usual morning ablutions, I walk softly and carefully through the dark of the living room trying not to stub my toes or smash my knees into anything. Or step in anything. You never know with cats. Cold weather brings in the occasional mouse. I think they fold themselves into tiny shapes that fit inside a small crack in a log that was brought in for the woodstove. But I’d know if there was a dead mouse lying in wait. I’d hear the cats chasing it down during the deep hours of the night or the wee hours of the morning. They are never quiet about the chase and kill. Neither are the mice.
Sometimes it is not so dark. Sometimes it is quite bright as the light of the moon streams in the fan window in the living room (what the realtors call a great room because of the high ceiling and the fan window that sits way up as if it wants to touch the sky). Even a waning gibbous moon has enough light to see by when it hangs like a decoration in the middle of the window. The woodstove, if we’re using it, might put off some light, too. It depends on whether or not there is enough wood left to flame.
I make my way to the kitchen where I finally turn on a light. The beginning of the day is not entirely mine. I turn on the coffeemaker for M. I start the water for tea for me. I clean up the cat dishes and we start over, opening a can of cat food and dividing it between Izzy and Bella (the cats). Izzy and Bella stand in their corners, one at each end of a stainless steel tray where I place the bowls of food. Izzy gobbles down most of her food. Bella, the diva-est of the divas, daintily eats a small portion of her food and walks away. I wait for Bella to do this because if I don’t, Izzy will gobble down Bella’s food. She’s a tad bulimic in that she’ll binge and purge if allowed to do so, usually right on the tray or the bowls of food. Gross, Izzy. Gross.
After Bella saunters away and I put her bowl up where Izzy can’t get to it (Bella will come back later and I’ll place it back on the tray when she does), I steep some tea and when it’s ready, pick up the mug, turn off the light, and stare out the kitchen window to see what I can see. It takes a few moments for my eyes to adjust. This time of year what stands out most is the morning star which is not a star at all but a planet. Venus shines bright over the pond in the southeastern sky. Venus has been sinking downward toward the sunrise while another planet, Jupiter, has been rising. The two met up on January 22, passing each other on their respective ways down or up and at some point a week or so later, the crescent moon joined Venus and Jupiter in the early morning sky.
If it’s not too cold (32°F or above), I’ll wander outside to look at the stars and the planets and the Milky Way when it’s visible. Even when it’s below freezing, I’ll sometimes wander out just long enough for a quick peek. It has to be quick because I usually just slip my feet into some flip-flops or go barefoot.
One of the wondrous things about those early morning hours is watching as the stars begin to wink out and the sky begins to lighten. It goes from black of night to the blue hour (which is not an hour at all; more like 20 minutes). If you’re a photographer, you’re familiar with the blue and golden hours, those periods just before and after sunrise and sunset when the light is softer and more evenly diffused. There is a slow steadiness to sunrise, as it it’s not in a great hurry to get here. It is a reminder that very often change is small and gradual, slow and steady.
The best time to spot the wildlife around here is near sunrise or sunset. The deer come walking out of the future woods, a hawk who has been hanging around lately stations itself either in the sun somewhere or near the bird feeder. It appears that our hawk likes the suet, but I’m pretty sure it is also eyeing the other birds and the occasional squirrel as potential meals. The otters come out to play in the early morning hours, too. There are two who hang out near the pond and two out by the dock. Flocks of blackbirds fly in and out with crows usually leading the way, and the geese are often honking and on the move during those sunrise and sunset times.
Before the sun rises up from behind the loblolly pines by the pond (sunrise this morning was at 7:02 AM), after I’ve stepped outside for a bit (if I stepped outside at all), the rest of the morning routine begins. I write a little (Morning Pages, but by my own rules because some mornings three pages are not enough and other mornings two sentences feels like too many), step on the mat for yoga and meditation practices, pick up the weights for strength training if it’s a weight day, and then have some breakfast before I go out for a morning walk. I’ve been hooked on an egg and veggie sausage with a small side salad of mixed greens lately. Sometimes I eat some kind of lentil or bean dish with rice, or a rice pudding with apples, raisins, and dates (no sugar added because the fruit is sweet enough). Leftovers from dinner occasionally show up on my breakfast plate, too.
It’s a good way to start the day, rising before the sun. If you haven’t done it lately, I highly recommend that you give it a try.
Attention is the beginning of devotion.
~ Mary Oliver, Upstream: Selected Essays
I was inspired to write this post by Dale’s Morning and the Sun is Just Rising (which is much more beautifully written than mine). In other news, Frank (of A Frank Angle) and I collaborated on a post, On Shadows. My apologies to Frank for not posting about this on the same day the post appeared. I know this is stating the obvious but… I’ve been in and out of blogging lately. More out than in, I think.
Thank you for stopping by. Let’s meet at the dock for sunset which is scheduled for 5:34 PM. It’s been relatively warm today (60’s), but the temperature is supposed to drop pretty quickly this evening so I would suggest wearing layers, just in case. It does get pretty cool once the sun disappears behind the trees.
Be good, be kind, be loving. Just Be. 🙂
A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy: 1,011) The amazing opportunity to get to know a red-shouldered hawk who is either very brave or very hungry. Otherwise, I don’t think he would hang around so close to the house. 1,012) The lessons that sunrise teaches when you’re willing to show up and listen. 1,013) Morning routines, and being flexible about them. 1,014) A place where otters live and play. 1,015) Waddle the Duck. You’ll be seeing and hearing more about him soon (if you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already met him).