An odd thing has happened to me this summer. It’s probably a sign of encroaching old age, but for the first time in my life I have become a morning person. I find myself waking very early — around 5:00 a.m. — and not being able to get back to sleep.
I’ve known a lot of morning people in my life, and they rave about the stillness of the early morning and the beauty of sunrise and how early morning is a lovely time to pray and reflect and excercise and centre yourself and begin the day in the right frame of mind. For me, early morning has always been a good time to roll over and get more sleep.
Since that doesn’t seem to be an option at the moment, I decided to give this lark-in-the-morning thing a try, just to see if it was what it was cracked up to be. So a few weeks ago when I woke at 5:00, instead of fruitlessly trying to go back to sleep, I took our hyperactive dog Max in the van and drove down to Quidi Vidi Lake, site of one of the most popular walking trails in town.
Walking early in the morning turned out to be all those things morning people claim to like. It’s great exercise, I do indeed see beautiful sunrises, and it gives me 45 minutes to start the day with prayer and gratitude and reflection. So I’ve made it a more-or-less-regular part of my summer morning routine.
The lake is usually busy, even at 5:00 a.m., because it’s the site (in August) of the Royal St. John’s Regatta, oldest continuous sporting even in North America, and most mornings the rowers are out practicing as soon as light touches the sky. This morning it was deserted, because the time trials for the Regatta start later today, and I guess the rowers don’t want to beat themselves out before the time trials. The only rower at the lake this morning was the sculpture called (appropriately) “The Rower,” silhouetted against water that reflected the sunrise pink of the sky.
This morning, for the first time, I tried to take a few pictures that might capture the stillness and beauty of my early-morning walk — although I will say that having Max on the leash is not conducive to great photography, especially when photographing ducks. When I was about 2/3 of the way around the pond the sun finally appeared above the hill behind me, flooding everything with golden light and turning the glass-calm water to sky blue. What had been muted was suddenly illuminated, and I walked towards my own long shadow, delighting in this Sabbath morning.
I have a playlist on the iPod that I listen to as I walk — basically all the songs I find inspiring and uplifting. Most are by Christian artists, a few by secular artists, but all songs that somehow focus on God or spirit, songs that put my prayers into words better than I ever could. I scrabble around in the junk drawer of my brain for the words that will express how blessed I feel to be there in the first light of dawn, alive and walking into another day — but there are no words better than the words others have written and sung, and so I sing them along to the music in my headphones.
The first song on my playlist is Bruce Guthro’s Walk this Road. When I put on my headphones and start around the pond listening to it, I think that a touch of early-morning insomnia may be the best thing that’s happened to me this summer.
I’m gonna walk this road
I’m gonna ride this wind
Gonna open up my soul and let the sun shine in…