The waking up

“I’ll tell you how the sun rose a ribbon at a time.” – Emily Dickinson

It’s early morning here at the ranch and I feel, for some reason, like talking about it.

Because this time of day, the beginning, the space when the sun has not quite risen, where the coffee is brewing, Husband is searching for his socks and the dogs are still sleeping on the floor at the foot of our bed are some of the most underrated, serene and precious moments in my life.

It’s not as if I’ve ever claimed to be a morning person.  Husband can attest to this as he rises around 5:30 am after the snooze button has been hit for the third time only to find I am buried fully and completely under the covers with at least two pillows over my head. He has to dig to find me for a sleepy kiss good-morning which I rarely remember in my waking hours.

I’ve  been known to say a few things to him in that quiet moment after he’s taken the time to dig me out of my blanket cave to tell me it’s time to “wake up, wake up put on your hair and makeup…” things like “noooo, not yet…” and “I’m up, I’m a zzzzz…” or “where did you put the pineapple?” as I reach for those pillows and roll over.

It isn’t pretty, the fight I have with the morning hours (and the other battle I have with my hair once I do finally decide to emerge from my cocoon). Never in my adult life had I figured out a way to change my sleepy-head mentality, and depending on where I have been in the course of my life: my dorm room in college, my first apartment, my duplex at the foot of the mountains or our first house, my relationship with the mornings have always been the same: dread.

But something changed when I moved back to the ranch over a year ago.  I am not sure when it officially happened, but somewhere between the mud-sliding, the cow chasing, the cooking, singing,  cat farming and story telling, my mornings have become my therapy and refuge. After the coffee is brewed, the animals are fed, the bed is made and husband’s socks and pants and shirt and scarf and vest are on and he’s out the door, I find myself in my favorite space as the sun rises slowly over the hill behind the red barn.

And rarely during the week do I miss that sunrise. I wait for it.  I wander around the house cleaning up dishes from the night before, filling my coffee cup and taming my hair,  stopping by each small window to take a peek at how the horizon decided to make an appearance today.

Sometimes it comes dancing in wearing ravishing bright pinks and golds and purples with streaks of fluffy clouds reflecting its light.

Sometimes its quiet against a clear sky turning the crisp grass silver and making the frost on the trees glisten.

And other times it simply provides enough light to silhouette the barn just right, making a subdued but dramatic entrance.

And sometimes it is hidden under a blanket of rain clouds or comes up with the snow that has been falling all night.

But it doesn’t matter, I always look, bending down slightly as I walk past the sink, watching the horses in the pasture below me as I brush my teeth in the bathroom or, in the summer, on the other side of my bedroom window as I roll over and open my eyes. In those moments, when it wakes me and the green grass and the blossoming trees like that, my first site a gorgeous pink sky, I catch myself in a smile I put on without an effort, without even being fully awake, without even thinking about the time or my agenda for the day…without even remembering my name.

And if I sleep in and miss it’s show, I find I am a bit disappointed, no matter how much that extra hour or two was needed.

Yes, I don’t know how it happened, or why, but my mornings have transformed from a time where I used to rush, groggy eyed, to get to the shower and out the door with a cup of coffee and slice of toast in my hand into a time where I can take a moment to actually greet the sun, have my coffee on my favorite chair and take a few more moments to reflect, to write, to relax and be myself before moving on with my day.

These were how my mornings were growing up. As country kids who lived miles and miles from our school we had to wake up early…way before the sun. Pops would knock on our doors and swing them open to say to us gently “it’s time to wake up girls.” And as I would roll over, my little sister across the hall would bounce up, always prepared, always on time, not willing to sacrifice a moment and eager to get to the last bowl of Frosted Flakes.

After a few minutes pops would knock on my door for the second round of wake-up and I would swing my legs groggily over the side of my bed to prove to him that this was it, I was up, the day was happening.  And somewhere between waiting on the bathroom (can you say “three girls?”), pulling on my favorite Levis, fixing my ponytail,  shuffling to the kitchen for my turn at the Frosted Flakes while my mom sat on the other side of the counter chatting quietly and sipping her coffee,  I got used to the idea of a new day as the sun slowly lit up the trails beneath the dark oak trees that surrounded our house.

It was in those mornings at the ranch waking one another gently, getting ready for the day together, waiting our turn for the bathroom that we were our best family. We knew for certain that morning after morning pops would be there to open the door to our bedroom and let the light from the hallway flood in, we knew mom would have our cereal or bagel or waffle out on the counter waiting for us, we knew when the small yellow bus would come bouncing down the road and we knew who would be saving us a seat when we boarded. And when we were older and pops drove us to town, we knew he would make us laugh by making up ridiculous words to Bon Jovi songs on the radio and we knew he would be there to pick us up after school was out or practice was done. We knew he would drive us home to our place in the trees in the evening and we would have a chance to do it all over again when another morning came around.

What we didn’t know was what was going to happen in the between-hours as the sun made her way to the horizon, up over our heads and back down again. We didn’t know what we might learn about the English Language or the history of our country, or what or who might come into our lives unannounced . We didn’t know how our hearts might ache that day or how tears might form as we were sure we failed that test or lost the game because we missed that shot. We didn’t know when an opportunity might arise or that a love might be blossoming day after day in the hallways of our schools.

But we walked through the day with the memory of that morning, the sound of our father’s voice rising us from our dreams, the taste of sugared cereal on our lips, the smell of our mother’s coffee and we knew, that no matter how the day turned on us, the sun would rise and we could start again from a peaceful and safe place.

We will be moving into our new house over the hill in a few months. That house will have large windows facing the east where the sun rises every morning and I look forward to this more than a larger space for my shoes, a kitchen with adequate cupboard space and even an extra bathroom. I picture myself sitting with my morning coffee out on the porch or on my favorite chair taking in the show on a big screen, basking in the pink light and energizing myself for the day.

But the way the sun peeked through the windows of this little house morning after morning, following me around from tiny room to tiny room, waking me up to what is important, reminding me to take a moment, kissing my cheeks and calling me to look, to listen to, fall in love with life again will be a memory I will hold in my pocket like the sound of my little sister’s door swinging open to greet the day…

reminding me that, around here, the waking up has always been worth it.

18 thoughts on “The waking up

  1. Love sunrises and your photos of them are wonderful! Early morning, before husband is stirring and after the animals have made their first trip (of many) outside, is my favorite time of the day. I love the quiet, I love watching to see what kind of sunrise the morning will bring.

  2. I used to recall the kids that came to WCHS on the buses after a long trip down a gravel/scoria road and how they looked at us like “Don’t talk to me.” Your waking up sounds like a wonderful way to greet the day, not “If you kids don’t get out of bed, I’m leaving you home and you can WALK to school.” And we had to make our beds and gag down our oatmeal (no cool cereal in this family). And, your dad picking you up after school is special, too. He just seemed to want extra time with his girls. I knew he’d turn out like that way back when. By the way, if you need hair tips, check out Joakim Noah, a Bulls player. He has tackled unruly hair, too, and is my fave guy.

  3. Today’s pictures are gorgeous. I rarely see the sunrise, since I am not a morning person either… no matter how hard I try. But I especially love the picture of your cat, who looks like a fierce hunting machine today.

  4. John Quincy Adams always loved to wake up before dawn and start a long walk. He joked he did not trust the sunrise time tables so he liked to check the sunrise time personally. I suspect he loved the morning sky as much as you and didn’t want to miss it.

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