For much of my life I’ve dreamed about being one of those early risers who jump out of bed at five or six am, run six miles, shower, put on a pot of coffee, read the paper, answer emails and who is out of the house by eight am to conquer the world. I dreamed about it because I often read about it in profiles of CEO’s of big companies and of celebrities who look really good, despite grueling shooting schedules. There’s something attractive about that sort of routine and the discipline it takes to execute it day after day after day. Unfortunately for me, I need eight hours of sleep, which gets horribly in the way of well-intentioned alarm-clock settings.
However, for about twice a year for a week or so I am up before the sun, a place in time even more foreign than any place abroad. If life is measured by a series of stolen moments and complete quiet, then I can imagine mine in a slideshow of dark windows that slowly transform into grey then slightly pink and orange skies, paired with the soundtrack of the morning: birds chirping, sprinklers running, the odd plop of the newspaper being delivered and another type of morning breath – air so crisp that you can almost hear it. This is my golden hour – something rare, cherished because I can only enjoy it when I’ve awakened naturally, not by alarm but by the mismatched internal rhythm of my heart, still ticking to some other timezone.
And now in my twenty-fifth year and having just returned from two months in Asia, I am both blessed and cursed with a spectacularly severe case of jet lag. Waking up for the third day in a row at 4:45 AM, I learn something about myself. Some people need the mornings to get a head start on their day – but I, at present still unemployed, am not in the position to need the extra hours. Companies don’t rely on me to be a smoothly running machine, nor do I have children to fix breakfast or pack lunches for. I just have…time. So I take it in slowly, in doses of increasing sunlight until the sky is fully lit.
I spend the earliest hours in the kitchen, reading old TIME magazines and waiting for the sky to lighten. When the first band of faded pink begins to show, I step outside into the backyard and walk around the pool (in which yesterday there was a duck, who ignored me), wondering what it would be like to swim at this time (something I’ll try during the summer). And there it is, the most elusive part of morning – all drawn together in a glorious sensory painting – more impressionistic than realistic, yet more vivid than either could ever portray: trees and grasses swaying, my own breath inhaling, and along with it, some flowery scent floating my way, still untouched by car exhaust and fertilizers. It introduces itself to me for the first time though most likely, it has always been there.