I never used to be a morning person. Early morning rising used to be something reserved for special or dreaded occasions: early starts for trips or vacations, field trips, exams, new jobs. Saturday and Sunday mornings were cherished sleep-in times, almost inviolable rituals of indolence.
The past few years have brought change in preference, perspective and circumstance – as time and age usually do. Life at home has very early rising going on around me, which has caused/facilitated my own early starts. Shortly after this new routine began, I recognized the downside of the “snooze”: the horrid sick feeling of needing to get up (again) after an extension to the night’s sleep made me feel the complete opposite of rested and wakeful, a feeling I recognized from those terrible mornings of needing to get up for an exam after studying all night and falling asleep at a desk or on a cold floor. After some memorable mornings when I allowed myself just 20 minutes to rise, shower, eat, dress and walk the 15 minutes to work (yes, do the math), I made a new resolution: get up with the alarm.
While initially a unique form of torture, this new approach did actually make me feel better. Hmm, maybe there’s something to this morning thing. I found that my morning time – working, reading, writing – could be my most enjoyable and productive of the day. Remarkable satisfaction is realized from the completion of tasks large and small that require the focus and quiet I can only get at this time. The absolute delight in 45 minutes of reading, with a mug of tea and the most minimal of urban noise, is such a treat.
For age-related and other reasons, I’ve now extended my early morning prowls to include the weekends. I indulge in sleeping in a bit longer than during the week (I’m not a total ascetic), but those mornings are even more enjoyable, as the work is at a minimum and the focus is on much more enjoyable pursuits. The tea is omnipresent.
My favourite delight about early mornings are the sounds. No time in the city (or even indoors) is ever completely quiet. The occasional car or bus going by, the hum of the fridge, a dog barking, the neighbours grinding coffee or chasing their kids around, are the typical morning soundtrack. But not long after my new schedule began, I heard amongst the noise some delightful and peaceful sounds. The rarest of these is actual quiet, the briefest of moments when all of the noise inducing elements of the world are still, or far enough away that they can’t be heard. Those moments are ah-inducing, pauses in life most noticeable because of what they don’t have: noise.
My favourite morning sound is birdsong. Usually, not long after sunrise, there is a single bird (or sometimes a pair) that trills loud and clear – just two notes, a high and then a low, and then a pause, and then repeat. On fortunate mornings, I hear the response from a second bird, usually slightly higher or lower, but the same lovely interval. I imagine it is a parent calling to a young one, “time to get up”. Or perhaps a mate pair of birds, calling to each other to say, “Good morning, love”.
I’ve heard this one my whole life (on those rarer mornings when I did rise early in my younger days, this sound was the one nice thing I noticed), and have never been able to identify the bird. The scientist in me wants to figure out what it is and I have tried, but “bird that sings two notes” is too vague even for Google. The rest of me, especially my peaceful morning self, just wants to enjoy the sound unfettered by knowledge – a pure aural joy.
Now I rise early with (usually) little difficulty, sometimes gently waking before the alarm and slipping out of bed to enjoy my refuge of quiet and tea. In fact, sleeping in feels terrible, both physically and mentally. I still like a slowish start to the day. I don’t leap out of bed, clap my hands, and go for run or anything silly like that. My early mornings are usually languid and unstructured (although I confess to getting an early start on laundry on the weekends). I still occasionally have those rushed morning times, the “shit, I’ve got a meeting in 20 minutes” realizations, followed by a few moments of “what the heck have I been doing for three hours?” Sometimes, right at that moment, the bird pipes up again as if to say, “absolutely nothing, and wasn’t it great?”
Update 2020: I couldn’t resist – the morning bird is the black-capped chickadee.