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In This Place

Greeting the Early Morning World

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Liz Lerner
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This is the hour nobody owns: the break of day, just about dawn. The vast majority of people are in their beds. It is the best time to be alone in a crowded, hectic summertime world.

It is also the best time to be with our wild brethren. The animal world is most active and most free now. The night-time sojourners make their last rounds before retiring for the day: deer, fox, weasel, raccoon, owl. The weird ululations of a tiny screech owl only just ended.

The day birds are the quintessential early risers: their first songs precede the breaking of light. They celebrate the night’s end and the beginning of another day. They celebrate survival. They will take the rising sun’s energy, transformed into seeds and insects, and translate it into feathers- and song. What is song, but pure, unalloyed joy? Each song or call pierces the silence. I hear Carolina Wren, Blue Jay, Catbird, Song Sparrow, Oriole, House Finch, Mourning Dove, Robin, Cardinal, and more. In an hour or two these same birds will mostly skulk in the bushes, but now they are more visible and active on our lawns, decks, and patios. They stroll and hop along roadsides and even in the middle of the mostly empty streets.

Light steals gently, inexorably, into the dawn sky, creating a quiet revolution. Shade by shade, it nullifies the darkness. In this mild early morning light everything looks kinder, gentler. Things begin to appear and take shape. Across the harbor I see Long Point Lighthouse, a squat alabaster pillar against the sky, and a few boats resting on their moorings.

Down on the beach it is especially quiet. In the absence of noise, silence takes on a power of its own. Footsteps in the sand are muffled, as if admonished. Gulls fly in the gray overhead with wings that row through the air without a sound. Above them, even, tiny Tree Swallows twitter against the cottony clouds. The clouds, like cotton batting, seem to enhance the silence. So does the sodden percolating sand.

The tiny fingers of the tide creep blindly, boldly, across the flats- a promise returned. There is the beginning of a faint trickling sound. Tiny grains of sand tumble over each other, without so much as a pardon-me. They are so small, but resolute- they know they built this peninsula. A lone eider sits on the exposed jetty, surveying the scene, just as I am. I feel a fellowship with it.

Back on land, I feel the world waking up. Bees begin to do their work. There is the whine of a mosquito close by, the bark of a distant dog, the low rumble of a truck’s wheels out on Route 6, the beeping of a backing-up truck, and now the first planeoverhead.

Now I join the civilized world. I will amble home, say hello to a neighbor, go in and check my email and texts, turn on the radio (WCAI, of course!), and talk with my wife about the day ahead. But for this precious hour my thoughts were my own. They were not really thoughts, but something more primal, more basic, more akin to what the eider was doing.

The early morning world is like Eden. And it is here every day, no matter where you live. You only have to haul your recalcitrant body up and rise out of bed, prepare yourself, and go out and greet it.