I love the early, too. I was born at 5:26am, just before sunrise on a midsummer morning, and have been an early bird ever since. At sleepovers as a kid, I would wait for what felt like forever until my friends began to stir in their sleeping bags. But I also secretly enjoyed it, and still do - the quiet solitude, a slowing-down of time before the rest of the world rushes in. I call it my Thinking Time, and have a Winnie-the-Pooh-esque fondness for it. It is also a good time for Adventures.
This morning, as pre-dawn gray light slips in through the wide mouth of our living room window, I lace up my shoes to go for a run along Lake Washington. My mind is already chattering… help mom set up Skype, I wonder where I can get a UK field guide? Remember to pack dental floss… and other things that don’t fit quite so tidily into words. I am leaving tomorrow, flying from my Pacific Northwest home to a new home in southwest England. Running gets the jitters out.
This morning’s sky is a mosaic, the clouds parading above the lake in all sorts of moods. Dark, mercurial ones upstaged by whimsical, feathery wisps, and the ones that are puffy on top with a flat bottom catching bits of light around their edges. Sun pokes through where it finds an opening, reaching down to touch the gray, glassy surface of the water. The play of light and shadow makes me feel in the world rather than on it. I stop and bend forward to look upside-down, seeing the depth between lake and sky, and sensing beyond that the thin layer of atmosphere, and beyond that…
I stand up and continue running. Turns out I’m not the only one who loves the early. There’s a northern flicker on his familiar power line perch - “clear!” he says, offering a single, pure note to whoever is listening. A handful of starlings sing their sliding, whistling song from the upper reaches of a big leaf maple tree. Summer is turning toward winter now, and the starlings have begun flocking again. A family of ducks glides through the shallows, parallel to my trail, dipping their beaks. They look aware, and very much at ease. I run through a cloud of flies, and one meets an unappealing (for both of us) end under my eyelid. As I stop to wipe it out, a ratatatat! calls my attention to a tiny - tiny! - woodpecker at work on a dead branch overhead. No bigger than my hand, its compact frame bears mostly black feathers, with a thin white markings down each wing and one stripe down the middle of its back. It has a small, rounded head, no red crown like its Pileated kin, and a proportionately small beak. Is this Downy Woodpecker a juvenile? I watch it for a while as it tests the acoustics of various parts of the branch, chipping here and there, circling upward as if following an invisible spiral staircase. Another jogger goes by, slowing briefly to find what I’m looking at, but doesn’t stop.
Just as I get to the dock and walk out toward the water, it starts to rain. The drops are small, but big enough to be raindrops, not a light spray. The rain sounds like a chorus of crickets, a thin, high, rolling whisper across the water. Now I can really see depth; raindrop to raindrop to raindrop falling into the lake, filling all the space from shore to shore and water to sky. I run back home, feeling my body moving through it, sweat and rain mingling on my skin.
The house is still asleep. As I look around the empty room that I am leaving, and the rain falling outside, I realize: I don’t need to go as far as England for Adventures. There’s plenty of them, just outside my front door.
But I’m going anyway, to see what the early is like there, to come upon new thoughts during Thinking Time, and to listen to the rain.
August 27, 2013