Friday, January 9, 2009

Early and Replete

My alarm clock is a nasty little thing, bright green with a picture of Kermit the Frog sitting in a directors chair, and makes a noise unlike anything which occurs in nature, a high-pitched beeping screech which promises to wake the neighbors if left on too long. Unlike music on the radio or those Zen alarm clocks which play the sound of crickets or babbling mountain streams mine makes the sort of noise which is impossible to incorporate into a dream and is far too horrific for even the worst of nightmares. It was a Christmas gift from my mother in 1980 and for whatever reason I have relied on it ever since, taking it with me to college, on a trip to Canada, even here to Denver in high school, where I accidentally left it and paid to have the family who hosted several classmates and me send it to me overnight. I have been given other clocks, but have received none as true as Kermit, who refuses to offer the false promises of a snooze button and does not intrude upon my sleep with ominous glowing red or hospital-green numbers. No, mine suits me just fine and despite its horrific alarm, I love and treasure it. When it erupts from the dresser on the other side of the room, requiring me to jump out of bed and run to turn it off, Ken hides his head under the pillows while Duncan groans and the cats scatter down the hall into the dining room where they crouch and hide under the table like mice. It is a terrible way to wake up, really, but it gets the job done quickly, a bit like throwing oneself into a cold pool of water rather than tortuously dipping one toe in at a time.

I don't know exactly when it happened but some time shortly after graduating from college I became a morning person. I may not like it, but I'm damn good at faking it, and it doesn't hurt that I'm able to whistle my way through the entire process. I've often wondered what my neighbors think when Duncan and I make our 6:30 AM rounds, walking down the yard to the corner, then back up across the Linden-strewn meandering patch of grass between two of the buildings. I whistle the entire time, sometimes mimicking the little birds which flutter between the boughs of the pines, or calling back to the mourning doves who perch on the highest points of the buildings all around. I whistle songs everyone knows and some that come to me right there on the spot. I am not particular.

It has been a long week: work has been frustrating with the start of the new semester, Ken's schedule is still a mess and I've been worrying after one of my closest friends, who seems to be in the midst of a Job-like test of calamity and endurance. Kermit's call this morning was not welcome in the slightest, especially since I'd somehow convinced myself it was Saturday and it seemed absurd that I'd set him at all. When it finally sunk in that I had yet one more long day to make it through, that the weather had finally assumed a more January and less April-ish role, I sighed, plodded down the hall toward my office, whose tall wide window looks out on Bowles and across the street over the park to peek out on the bleary world.

I do not know why the sunrise this morning seemed so magnificent. I have watched it come up over Lake Michigan, which seems as big as an ocean. I have climbed high in the mountains and low in the deserts to witness it. I have stood on the deck of a ship in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and watched it pull itself up, as Emily Dickinson said, "a ribbon at a time." I am quite certain there have been more spectacular mornings, but this one seemed especially glorious as though it was just for me. Duncan wasn't due up until after my shower, when the tea kettle calls him down the hall and out for our first walk. Quietly, so as not to disturb him, I pulled a pair of jeans on over my pajamas, threw on a henley and a flannel shirt just to be safe, found my gloves, cap and camera, zippered up my coat and squeezed out the door.

It was cold, as January mornings should be, and each breath was clean but sharp in my nose and down into my chest. The back of my neck, which had just been nestled among numerous blankets and nuzzled against by Olive, who slept on my pillow, seemed shockingly bare and extremely naked but alive in every way that a morning can make one feel alive. The grass was brittle as I strolled down the yard but the ground was soft beneath it and gave a little under my weight, like ice when it bounces and bends because it can't decide between being a liquid and a solid. Last night, when it was so delicious and warm, when Spring seemed so very near, I would've cringed at the thought of strolling in the near-dark on such a cold morning, breathing such painfully light air and hearing the kind of silence only heard in deep caves or at the bottom of the sea. Nothing could have made me purse my lips together and summon a tune, real or imagined. The morning was complete in its crisp quiet, it's mottled orange and purple sky, with the faint white trace of light on the darkened edges of the tree trunks and their innumerable nude branches. This was a January morning that forgives all others, that forgives unpleasant awakenings and offers sincere promises that the rest of the day can not help but be just as abundant in its simplicity and subtlety.

For what human ill does not dawn seem to be an alleviation?
(Thornton Wilder


Kevi said...

Your line, "The grass was brittle as I strolled down the yard but the ground was soft beneath it and gave a little under my weight, like ice when it bounces and bends because it can't decide between being a liquid and a solid." is perfection. It is something I have often enjoyed, but never taken the time to put into words. Even if I had, they wouldn't have been as clear.

Job said...

Even in the midst of calamity, my spirits are lifted by the beauty of your writing. Thank you.

Sue said...

You continue to amaze me with your poetry.

I love it!

caboval said...

We have an award for you! Hugs, Joey and Kealani