environment · Me · mental health · Nature · play · smell

A morning communion

deciduous azaleaEnrichment is…

Waking before dawn, and being called out by the morning birds to go participate in the celebration of dawn.

I lie in bed, awaken from being overheated under my down comforter. I had been cold and left the heat on last night, foolishly, for now I am up and alert, at 5:30 in the morning. I toss and turn a little, and lie on my back, hands resting on my chest and stomach, almost as if in meditation or prayer.

I don’t know how long I lie there, but soon enough the light outside changes from cold, harsh street lamps to a softer natural light. Suddenly I hear a bird announcing his presence in the tree above my bedroom. His song is joined by a second kind of beat, the first lolling, the other more short and chirpy. A third chimes in with his sing-songy notes. For whatever reason, I am moved to join them. Not in song, but a need to be witness to this ageless ritual of the morning, of virility, of male posturing, of spring.

It is spring; after a long rainy winter, it is finally starting to be spring. In the dark of my bedroom I feel for my grandfather’s work shirt and a pair of leggings. I find a pair of Converse waiting by the back door. Slowly, so as not to wake the dog or my husband I left behind both soundly asleep, I unlock the door, tie my shoes, and I am gone.

I could easily just stand out in my backyard, listening, still as a newly budding daffodil in this morning gray. But I must move. I must be a part of it. I want to deeply breathe in the cold wet air, to feel the morning on my hands and face. While it is a warmer morning than I’ve felt in awhile, the air is brisk with only one layer on, but walking keeps me just warm enough. I walk north past the church where last weekend the boy scouts had their gardening fundraiser, the yard now empty, abandoned in this pre-morning gray. There are no cars, no people. Just me and birds, and they are the only ones brave enough to break the silence.

I see fat robins picking at things in the street; they must have better eyes than me to make out anything edible in this pre-dawn light, or maybe just being closer to the ground helps.

A pair of runners and their dog cross my path a block up, reminding me that I am not the only human alive. Gaining momentum before charging up a small hill, they do not see me, they are lost in their own morning meditation.

I pass under a series of pink blooming plum trees, and as I pass their fragrance fills my nostrils. It is glorious. I breathe in deeply, letting the fruity blossom smell reach all the way into the back of my throat. My pace is perfect so that I am able to perform a deep, yoga-like breath under each tree, taking the smell in, considering the slightly different fragrance each tree puts off. One is farther along in its blooming cycle, and the white flowers are less fruity than the pink ones, more subtle. As I walk under them the air temperature changes to just a few degrees warmer. It is a pleasant respite from the cool morning air.

The houses on the street are all darkened, except for the occasional porch light or living room lamp left on. They are still asleep. Wise souls. Foolish souls for missing the morning.

The street dead ends onto another cross street, and I turn, starting to make my rectangular route around the neighborhood. Each garden’s plants are in a different state of bloom, from sticks to buds to a few purple and pink azalea blooms already in full show. Some gardeners have already started their new beds this year, others haven’t touched them, or let them go to weed.

My study of the local architecture is distracted by another human; a homeless man with shaggy graying, sun-bleached hair, in baggy clothes and a plastic bag tied to his shirt is walking down the other side of the street, slowly but with a purpose. He ignores me as we walk towards each other on opposite sides of the street. As he passes from my peripheral view I wonder what he is doing out wandering around the neighborhood this time of morning, then realize he could just as easily think the same of me; what is this strange girl doing in just a large flannel work shirt and leggings doing wandering the neighborhood this time of morning?

I see another runner reach his front walkway as I make the final turn onto my street. The light is finally starting to turn yellow, streaming up under the clouds, lighting them with streaks of yellow and orange. The birds are now in full chorus. My hands are chilled, but I am filled with gratitude that I got to see this morning arrive. I lift my up my back gate and carefully swing it open so it won’t scrape the pavement, still trying to keep quiet.

I take a moment, standing on my back porch, letting the bird song and wet, cold morning air drift over me. I want to share this with my entire household. I want to share this moment of awakeness, aliveness, and sense of being a part of the world. But the secret to this moment’s success is that it is a solitary event, it is alone and quiet. Just me and the birds, the plum blossoms, the rhododendron bushes, and the cold wet air.

I go inside to get warm just as the sun splits the clouds open and it starts to rain.

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