Thursday, March 17, 2005

Early morning quiet

I’ve almost always been a morning person. It’s not that I always want to get up and do something, or even that I'm always in a great mood as soon as I wake up. The peace of that time of day simply appeals to me, whether it comes in the dark and cold of winter, or in the bright mornings of spring and summer, when the sunlight is a beautiful color that it doesn't have any other time of day.

When I was growing up, I liked to be up early, with the house mostly to myself, enjoying breakfast quietly with my dad, as he read the newspaper and worked the crossword. My mother took advantage of my early morning wakefulness early on: by the time I was in the later part of elementary school she had taught me how to make her coffee and put me in charge of packing lunches for myself and my siblings.

I tended to sleep in during the first couple years of college, but after that I started getting up early again, and those are some of the mornings I remember best. I enjoyed the quietness of the world at seven in the morning. The expansive campus seemed nearly empty, aside from deer, rabbits, and the occasional early morning cyclist or jogger. I suppose I could have had a similar sense of quiet and aloneness wandering through campus at night, but in the early mornings I was free of fears of mountain lions and bad guys. In the mornings, there was just cool air, clear sunlight, and damp grass. I would sit outside in the quad to read the paper without disturbing my roommate, or take walks through campus.

I still get up earlier than some people think is reasonable, even on the weekends. I like to have my alone time. For some reason, I enjoy the early morning quiet more than quiet time during the day when I am home alone. Sometimes I have my orange juice and read the paper or a book. Other times, I make the shopping list, pay bills, or mix up batter for pancakes. But no matter how I’m using that time, God help the husband who rises within an hour of me on a Sunday morning and interferes with my peace and quiet.

Yesterday morning when I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep, I figured I might as well go to work. The days are getting longer, so when I left the house around 6:30 it was already light. The bus was crowded and when we got to the Pentagon, there were plenty of people already waiting to go through security at the entrance to the building. It wasn’t until I came out of the Metro at Foggy Bottom that things felt different. The hot dog cart wasn’t there yet, nor was any other vendor. The Post Express man wasn’t there calling out good morning to everyone as he handed out papers. Only the Washington Examiner man was there with his free papers, and he didn’t say anything. I wasn’t caught up in a press of people heading toward their offices or the next bus. Washington Circle wasn’t its usual mess of honking cars. I didn’t have to wait for a long traffic signal or dodge cars as I crossed Pennsylvania Avenue against the light on the way to the bus. In the middle of Washington, I had the same sense of solitude and quiet that I used to have on a path in the center of the Santa Cruz campus, watching a doe near the library, or sitting on a slope near the music center, looking out over the town and the bay.

It’s not that I want to be alone in the world. I remember being absolutely terrified by a book I read in middle school, probably something by Christopher Pike, in which the characters woke up and found that everyone else in the world had disappeared—I don’t remember how or why or what happened after that (although that was probably scary, too), just that these characters were alone. The idea still scares me. But somehow I enjoy being awake while the rest of the world sleeps, and feeling everything else come slowly to life around me.

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