It’s 3:30 AM and I’m in my kitchen, listening to rain falling on our tin roof of our small house. Occasionally I hear shifting bodies from upstairs: my daughter in her room directly above me, Ty in the loft above the living room. It’s a lovely watch to keep, as the singer Greg Brown said in a song he wrote years ago when his daughters were young. The windows radiate black; the clock ticks; the cat gets up off the couch and wanders into the bathroom for a sip of water.
I should go back to sleep; I know this. But instead I make myself a cup of black tea, spoon some honey into it, pour milk. Mornings to myself are what I miss most since having a child. She wakes early, most mornings too early, and this precious hazy dawning of the mind has been, for the most part, lost to me.
I lived, when I was nineteen, for a while in Tucson, Arizona. I would wake at five each morning, early enough to watch the day break, and sit in the cool yard drinking instant coffee and watching the sky flame peach and tangerine over the ocotillo fences and palo verde trees of my neighborhood, listening to dogs and birds alike waking.
They feel both secretive and capacious, these dawn hours. So sweetly my own. In the summer my mother wakes at four-thirty, drinks a cup of black coffee on the porch, and sets off down the hill to the garden. In Taos my aunt and uncle wake at four and drink coffee for two hours before starting their long days welding iron and corralling horses.
Is it genetic, this intoxication for dawn and pre-dawn? For the world before it sets itself into motion?
The rain has let up. If I turn off the kitchen light a faint glow would emanate from behind the trees east of me. I hear my daughter roll over in the bed upstairs. Before she fell asleep I told her a summertime story, as I often do: treks through woods, blueberry picking, baby birds. We are all trying to get through this early April —snow, rain, snow, rain. It’s suicide season around here. Every year: someone.
Snow shifts off the roof and I think of going back to bed, but pass. There is a long day in front of me: the thinning and ecstatic limbs of my daughter to follow. Later we will put on our woolen layers, our raincoats, our mud boots, and make our way out into the wet and cold: this cool monsoon. We will become fully absorbed into daylight and motion and thrumming tongues. Which is what makes this now 4AM dark so precious, and so spectacular: the moment before the show begins. The anticipatory hum as the world gathers steam. My body, alone, in the near dark, rising, at just the right pace, to the occasion.