At Dawn

Originally uploaded by Stigs



I slept poorly last night, haunted perhaps by the images on the movie screen, or more likely a prisoner of my own adrenalin. The children moaned in their sleep, and I woke. My husband, ensconced downstairs on the couch with a cold, coughed, and I woke. A dream ended, and I woke up.

So when the alarm sounds at 5:30 this morning, the last thing I want is to get out of bed, tie the running shoes, and pound the sidewalks. I grab the basal thermometer and stuck it in my mouth out of habit, and while it measures, I try to convince myself I don’t need to go, but I know better. And so, when the thermometer beeps, I roll out of bed.

As I cross the room, my shadow startles me as it flits through the dim pool of green cast by the smoke detector. I creep past Christian on the couch and go outside, where a brilliant early morning starscape greets me. When I come home, I’ll go in the back yard, away from the street lights, and enjoy the view. But when I reach the top of the first hill, I realize I don’t have that long. Out of our little valley, already the eastern horizon glows white. And so I forsake the usual maze of a cookie cutter development and jog along the straightest shot to the neighborhood park.

I lie down on the gravel path, hoping no one is watching. The sharp edges of rocks bite into my head, but my attention is fixed on the sky. Orion, Cassiopeia, the seven sisters, shimmering against charcoal gray. Then a thread of fire traces a path from north to south, a split second of beauty that makes my breath catch. Why don’t they last longer? Do they really burn out so quickly?

I drink it all in, the khee khee khee and ch-ch-ch-ch-ch of the insects filling my ears, as dawn comes creeping westward, stealing the stars one by one. And when I rise, pulling fingers through tangled curls to check for gravel, the world has changed. It is full of magic—the best kind of magic, the kind whose inevitability surprises.

Homeward bound, my breaths conform to the pounding of my Asics on the pavement: In-two-three, out-two-three. I cross over the dewy imprint of rabbit tracks on the concrete, and a moment later the rabbit itself startles from its hiding place in the grass and darts across the street.

I arrive home to find the trees in our little creek valley silhouetted against the murky light of predawn. The birds fly silently across the sky, as if positioning themselves for the morning chorus. And sure enough, as the sky visibly brightens, as the last stars wink out, the singing begins.