Five o’clock AM. That is the time I naturally wake up in the morning. Whether this is from years of delivering newspapers in the morning when I was a kid, I don’t know. It has stuck just the same and I have come to value these first few hours as my own. I get up, not because I have to, but because I want to. It is the only time of the day when I do not have to be in a rush. Nothing has begun yet.
I have my own set of rituals. I get up and make a pot of espresso with one of those tiny Italian stovetop boilers. It makes good coffee ground straight from the beans, no expensive machine required. I make my coffee strong, and dilute it by half with milk.
I also check my emails. My kids want me to be on instant messenger and all that stuff. I prefer email because I can check it at my leisure. I don’t want to be on instant anything. Life can be hectic as it is.
The early morning varies throughout the year. Right now it is still very dark, close to the winter solstice. Regardless of the weather, I step outside the patio door, look out on our green space, and see the world quiet and alone. It’s the view you seldom get, a world apart from daytime. It’s almost like what you get camping when you wake up in the middle of the night awed by how the darkness can be pierced with a wall of stars.
Despite the blackness, the winter sky is surprisingly luminous. It is different from the summertime when the birds are already singing by this hour and the smell of the air is different. The early light of that time of year rushes me because the rest of the world has already swung into rhythm. I prefer the winter months I think. I like the gust of the fresh air. It wakes me up and I stand in the cold in my pyjamas long enough to feel it, then go inside again.
Everyone is sleeping. If my wife wakes up now, she messes with the quiet. She wants to know if I have paid a certain bill and it seems that she always wants me to look at the same kind of YouTube clip and be impressed. It’s a variation on a very young prodigy, usually Chinese, who can play something amazing on the piano for a variety show. At five AM, I am somewhat uncharitable to being impressed by YouTube. My replies are usually reduced to unenthusiastic grunts.
Five AM is when my thoughts roam free over all kinds of things. I have plenty of deadlines that drive my life, but none of them have started yet so I have the luxury of thinking of other things. I survey my world.
To reduce the clutter in my own brain, I mull over all that I have to do, and see what is left over for what I really want to do. It’s a list I keep chipping away at, like a long term bucket list.
Early morning is also a good time to find yourself grateful. When you are a young man, your life revolves in small circles that require little maintenance. Now there is a coterie of things that have gathered with the years that must be attended to. They are all somehow on purpose and that is good news. On purpose is a good thing and I am thankful for those things I can drive intentionally.
What punctuates the day most, is hunger for what is buried within the hours that lie ahead. If you could call it a morning prayer, the concerns that pass through my head early on are touchstones that I will return to at some point to see if I succeeded in some of the small things that make up the whole.
I will settle for some small wins over the next twenty-four hours. God please let me do good work. Let me move the line forward and contribute something which will stick, traces of caring that will last into tomorrow and beyond. Let me fix some things and build some others. Let me bring some things into the world with thought and care, and attention to beauty. Let me feel the good of your thoughts overlooking my day.
The morning is surprisingly simple and that is why I like it. No complications yet. My needs are few. A cup of coffee and some quiet goes far. It’s the first hour that makes or breaks all that will come after it.
And then the day begins. Goodbye early musings. I will see you again tomorrow morning like the luxury of an old friend. Ready to reflect on the day that has passed, and to divide and conquer the bits and pieces that are left over, all manageable in the light of a new day.