Usually around 4:00am.
I suppose this makes me peculiar compared to some folks. But, for me, rising early seems as natural as breathing.
There are many reasons for this pattern, the most prominent being this was the time I could most easily set aside for writing. For as long as I can remember, I have experienced the early morning moments as my creative time.
Itâ€™s a mystery to me that someone could do anything creative in the evening. When my wife worked on her Ph.D. dissertation, her most productive hours occurred after 9:00pm and continued into the wee, small hours of the morning.
But it worked for her!
Sometimes, during that dissertation time, we would pass each other in the darkness; her finally headed for bed, me plunging into the new day.
The early time is more than just the best time for me to do my â€œcreativeâ€ work. It has at least two gifts, and both are worthy of royalty.
Most early mornings, whether near summerâ€™s longest day or winter solsticeâ€™s brevity, I rise in darkness. The world beyond my east-facing window is black and foreboding; the faint glow spilling outside from my office light barely affects the immensity of the unseen space beyond. I know my yard is there, with its patchy grass and orange trees and oleanders. But I canâ€™t see them. Out my window, just past waking, I can imagine a thousand miles of open space or, if I want to amp up my anxiety, the possibility that unknown creatures slither through the night.
Out there is a kind of chaos. Unseen. Unsettling. Darkness.
This possibility of chaos is a good gift. It keeps my human pride in check.
But the next gift is extraordinary. As it arrives I imagine most folks, still snuggly in bed, must envy me.
How can they not be jealous of what I will witness?
Dawn is coming. I will see its birth.
First the darkness pales and I sense the earth racing forward. All of us, without having a thing to do about it, are rolling along, standing or sitting and yet attached to this wild beast of a planet, â€œspinning,â€ as Annie Dillard says in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, â€œ836 miles an hour round the earthâ€™s axis; I often fancy I feel my sweeping fall as a breakneck arc like the dive of dolphins, and the hollow rushing of wind raises hair on my neck and the side of my face.â€
Like Annie Dillard, I marvel in this moment of spinning and sweeping.
The darkness wanes. Gray light paints shadows. My back yard begins to emerge: oranges and oleanders and not monsters! Then, for I have intentionally chosen this east-facing window to see it all, the gray departs the stage, a bit player in the dawnâ€™s cast of thousands. Sky, earth, tree, air transform, shaking off the heavy darkness.
I hope everyone has a time in his or her day for reveling in the unfolding of creation. For all of his story-telling and encounters with individuals and groups, the Gospels depict Jesus setting aside time to pray, to be alone. Buddha settled down by the Bodhi tree, alone. Moses, alone, stood in awe of the burning bush. Whether we are introverted or extroverted, in the midst of school or career or retirement, I believe one needs a gift of a time that is â€œourâ€ time. A prayer time. A creative time. A time in which part of what we witness is a reminder of our essential role in the Creatorâ€™s gift of a daily genesis.
I look out my window now. Still darkness.
But dawn is coming. Somewhere, each moment of every day across this spinning earth, dawn is . . .
(Image from here.)