Four or five mornings a week, I am out of bed by 5:30 at the latest in order to be ready to walk the high school track with my daughter. We check in. “Going?” “Yes.” We step out into one of two colors—gray if it’s cloudy, black if it’s clear. Clear is a relative term since we live day and night in ambient light. We are awake—another relative term requiring minimal consciousness. “Cross now.” We stride across the empty sidewalks of the high school, scan the track for other runners, find our preferred lanes, and begin. I put my music on and postpone the day for another hour.
The stars merge with the blinking of planes heading for SeaTac and too often the grinding whine of the garbage trucks slam the silence. Some mornings when I finish the last lap at the north end, I can see the first streak of sunrise over Seattle.
But this is not a track morning. Our cat, Violet, is ready for conscious company and rousts me from my bed at 5:00. We’ve recently negotiated her get-up-now tactic: head-butting has been replaced by a gentler tapping with her paw on my face. Sometimes she forgets; sometimes I pull the covers over my head, can’t breathe like she can as she burrows for hours, and surrender.
I bring coffee to bed, settle against the dark outside with my bedside lamp on, and read something of my choosing by someone else. Never my work—this is my time to enjoy the efforts of other writers. Violet joins me, curling up on my lap.
Today it’s a book by Alexandra Fuller, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. Brilliant writing about her African childhood that trigger my memories of a summer working in Kenya.
This morning there is also time for what I call “leftovers” from the night before. Whatever my brain has been chewing on: an unfinished essay or characters from the novel I have yet to start writing taking hold of me.
There is a sweetness in this hour. When the distractions of the day are yet to arrive. In the quiet I can often recall the bits and bobs of thoughts about plot and character that have survived the night and come to light as the day begins. Violet finds a sweetness in this hour as well although what her bits and bobs are about I’m not sure.