I was up far too early (again) this morning. My body and my mind each do what they do when they want to do it, apparently.
I’m at the point now where the main difference I see between “morning people” and “night people” is the time when each of them can’t sleep. It’s mornings for me. I get to sleep fine, most nights: often, though, 3:30 comes and I’m wide awake – like this morning.
It’s that time of year when it’s too cool for the air conditioner, but too warm for the heater; I think it might be the lack of ambient heat-or-air noise that’s making it hard for me to stay asleep. My mind immediately places this theory in the “First World Problem Hypotheses Folder” (where it belongs) and tells my body to go ahead and get up.
Being up so early, I decided to work out. I don’t know who might be reading these words, but, I can almost guarantee you: if you saw what my actual body looked like, you might not ever guess that “working out” is a thing I actually do. But, do it I did, to the tune of 400 hundred calories, according to the monitor I was wearing.
The town we live in is one where I can feel relatively secure walking in the mornings, so I head out to the walking trail down by the river. Being November, it will be dark for most of the walk; however, I should start to catch the sunrise about the time I need to head home for a shower before work.
I always wonder about the other cars that are out at 4:30 in the morning. The people who still deliver morning papers fascinate me. I’m guessing the time may come when delivering papers will seem as historically quaint as delivering milk bottles does. I wonder how many people of a certain age or older in this country had “delivering papers” among their first jobs?
The trail itself is not as cold as I was expecting, but then, I’m dressed pretty warmly. I left my car parked on the side of a hill near where the trail starts: there were already a few other cars there. The sign says that the trail opens for walking at 5:00 AM, but I guess now (4:51) is close enough.
Most of the trail – the whole thing is 25 miles [40 km] long – is paved; however, there are a few long stretches of wooden railed pathway, including one old wooden covered bridge. These days, the river itself is much, much cleaner than it used to be; it smells like a river, instead of what humans have put into a river. I’m interested to see one fishing boat out in it, and wonder who that might be and what their life might be like.
When I used to walk every morning (i.e., when I was much lighter) I wore headphones; however, I want to hear the river this morning. The sound of water is like many other sounds: we stop going out of our way to hear them at some point in our life. I am, in real life, more oriented to sound than perhaps all of my other senses put together, so hearing the outdoors is a vital part of the experience.
In the Department of How-Safe-My-Town-Is, a woman runs by me pushing a baby in a stroller. It’s about 5:30 by this point. There are some fairly long hills on this trail; I was headed up one of them when she went jogging past. I’m wearing sweatpants and a hoody, and she nods to me in the half-light on her way by. I’m glad she didn’t look at me with fear – I’ve gotten to the point where I barely look at women anytime I’m anywhere where I’m concerned they’ll feel they are in a potentially threatening situation. The fact that she didn’t (look at me fearfully) made me feel good – for her – whoever she was. At any rate, she was gone and out of my sight within a few seconds.
Most of the year, this trail is full of the sounds of birds, frogs, and insects, and there are still a few, but it is relatively quiet. I walk to one of the checkpoints, which is by the ruins of what was a mill at one time, then head back. I love those ruins, by the way, but then, I love almost all ruins. There’s something strangely comforting in tangible signs of the vanity of human enterprise, given the unbridled hubris that seems to characterize much that we do.
Towards the end of the walk, I leave the trail to stand by a bend in the river where I can see the sunrise from a bit of hill. It’s a muted sunrise, without much color, but that suits the day. In less than two hours, I will be at work, where clocks and dates will clamor for my attention, insisting that no one and nothing in my life matters, except for them.
Nature has a way, though, of placing many things in perspective: that I am small, that I am transient, that life is a continuity we are handed for a brief time, where our main responsibility is not to screw things up. It’s also a reminder that nature has its revenge for much of the damage humans do, given enough time.
We often cannot “solve” the problems that life gives us. We can, however, listen to the river, and know: that while much we do can seem empty, empty things can be beautiful things, and beautiful things are always worth it.
For Nano Poblano this year, I’m trying a prose post a day instead of my usual work in poetry. Thanks for reading. – S.B.