Thursday, April 2, 2009

EARLY TO RISE…

I didn’t used to be a morning person. Certainly not an early-morning person. Though not much of a sleeper, either. Stay up ‘til three or four a.m., hit the sack for a few hours, get up mid-morning and go. That was my way, my natural circadian rhythm. Four or five hours of sleep, maximum. Oh, I arose early when I had to—even before dawn, if necessary—for things such as fishing trips, squirrels hunts, or long, single-day road trips where I intended to cover 1000 miles or so before stopping; though just as often, I’d launch these marathon drives the evening before, or even the noon before, drive all night, and meet the dawn somewhere on the road between Ohio and, say, Key West. All-nighters were always easy; it was getting to sleep I found difficult. When my father and I fished Lake Erie, I simply stayed up, drove us to the big lake so we arrived at dawn, fished all day, drove us back home, stayed up until well after midnight…then, went to bed. Going 36–48 hours without sleep was nothing. Give me five hours of sleep every twenty-four and I was fine; reduce that to four hours and about every two or three weeks I’d need a couple extra hours one night to sort of “fill up my charge.” Not so much an insomniac, rather a person apparently requiring less sleep. I still don’t need—or manage—more than five or six hours of sleep nightly…but I want to emphasize that word nightly. A few years ago, something inside me changed. Post-midnight habits faded. I found myself going to bed by 11:30 p.m., sometimes earlier! After decades of being nocturnal I became diurnal. Instead of awakening in the morning, I began preceding the dawn. Now I actually see the sunrise on a daily basis. Amazing. What caused this fundamental switch? I have no idea—it just happened…and virtually overnight. I went from being a night owl to a sunrise aficionado. Friends and family were astonished. And as silly as it likely sounds to most of you, for me it was like discovering a whole new world—or at least a side of my personal world that had been heretofore hidden and unfamiliar. Nowadays, find myself waiting on daylight. I make my pot of coffee or tea, check email, let Moon the dog out for her morning constitutional. Usually I step outside myself to check the sky—look up at the stars twinkling overhead, or perhaps watch the moon slip through the tangle of sycamore limbs as it pours silvery light onto the river’s moving mirror. Every so often I glance to the east to see if that first subtle lifting of night can be detected. Sometimes there’s just the faintest streak of gold or rosé, a hairline crack in the wall of black, telling me the darkness has been broken and a new day is leaking out. The one thing I miss from my old ways are the midnight rambles. I used to regularly go for long walks in woods and fields, following trails and pathways, or just forging along as best I could. I enjoyed being by myself in these wild areas when the world was hushed. I have good night vision, so while I carried a flashlight, I almost never turned it on—preferring instead to allow my sight to adjust to the available light. You’d be surprised how well you can actually see sometimes. I’ve watched rabbits dance in the moonlight and foxes in a short-grass prairie pounce on mice and voles. So what have I learned? Well, that dawns are indeed for early birds—singing, sleepily at first, as if they need to tune up and find their voice—then louder. Many begin arriving at the feeders while it is still more dark than light. I hear others fluttering overhead long before I can distinguish more than their passing silhouettes. Then the geese are apt to start honking…which usually sets off the blue heron. The cacophony probably gets every small creature along the riverbank stirring. About this same time the squirrels appear. There’s a hole in the top of the huge sycamore by the drive that usually holds four or five gray squirrels, and one after another they pop out and begin following their tree-top pathways toward the cottage and the ration of seeds and cracked corn they know awaits. That’s my signal to call my dog and head back inside, allow them to enjoy their breakfast. I never thought I'd say this—but I really like mornings.

14 comments:

Gail said...

I enjoy so much your shared memories of times with your Dad - road trips, fishing, walks and nature and wildlife, it is all so wonderful

Sunrise? I see most all - and then often curl up back to sleep if only for a brief time. I like miracles -each sunrise is just that, a miracle.

I sleep way more than you though. minimum 7 hours, prefer 8 to 9 per night. And, when schedule allows, an afternoon nap is peaceful and welcomed.

Your world is inspiring Griz - who do you talk to?

Love Gail
peace.......

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

When I'm up…I'm up. For the day. My mother told me I never even took naps as an infant—and neither, it turned out, did my daughter. And she, too, stayed up until midnight and got up before daylight, seldom sleeping more than 6 hours. For that matter, Mom didn't sleep much, either.

So I guess that runs in the family—though my Dad was one of those people who could go to sleep in five minutes whenever and wherever he wanted, sleep through anything, and sleep as much as he wanted. On those Lake Erie trips, for example, he'd simply go to bed at 6 the evening before, wake at 2 a.m., and be waiting for me when I rolled by to pick him up. This used to irritate the life out of me as a kid and was being forced to go to bed and told, as Dad put it, to "just close your eyes, Sonny, and go to sleep."

FAT CHANCE!

When I was in Cuba, I thought it was crazy that everything simply shut down in midday for siesta. MY GOD! YOU PEOPLE WANT TO SLEEP WHEN THERE'S FISH TO BE CAUGHT?

Different strokes…When knows, geezerhood may turn me into a daytime napper, too. If I live long enough to become a certified geezer.

Carolyn H said...

For many years, I worked rotatings shifts and got used to almost any kind of weird waking or sleeping hours. For years I thought I was a 2nd shift (3-11) kind of person. Then I became an early shift worker and often got to work by 6 a.m. Now, I prefer mornings, and I'm always up early, if not early enough to be at work at 6 a.m.

I could never do with just 405 hours of sleep though. I'm happiest with 6.5-7 hours.

Carolyn H.

Rowan said...

I'm a morning person, always have been but morning means when it gets light - in winter I sleep later which means I get up at 7am rather than 6am. I probably need 6 or 7 hours of sleep but can get by on less in the short term. If I need to get up at or 5am I can do it quite easily so long as there's coffee available straightaway. I love the peace and quiet (ie no human noise!) of the very early morning. Don't do daytime sleeping unless I'm really, really ill and thankfully that is a rare event. In siesta type countries I sit in the shade and read or do cross-stitch - it's often too hot to do much anyway in places like Egypt and Jordan. Sounds as though you cope with heat better than I do though.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

For a couple of years I worked an 11:00p.m. to 7:00a.m. shift. I'd come home, sleep until 11:30 or 12:00, get up. Oddly, the only time I sleep longer than my average 5 hours is when I'm camping, in a tent, where it's at least chilly enough during the night that I can snuggle in a sleeping bag. Then, every so often, I'll do an 8 hour job of it—which is great, though I feel groggy and sorta hung over for hours afterwards. Obviously, my body doesn't know what to do with excess rest.

Everyone is different and most people need at least a couple more sleep hours than me. When traveling, friends sometimes try and keep to my schedule because they feel obligated to keep me company (wrongly, I tell them, though it never matters) when they see me up and moving around, taking a walk, fishing, fiddling with the fire or reading. So in short order, I tend wear everyone around me completely out.

I was up this morning about 5, after going to bed around midnight and then reading a bit before falling asleep. Weird. It does, however, give me an extra "day" every week or so.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

No, no, no! I hate hot weather! I'm boreal in nature, more moose or polar bear than parrot or manatee. My daughter and her husband are probably going to move to Florida soon. They want me to move too—have even offered to build a separate wing on their home for me. I'm resisting mightily (though love for my only child may eventually win.) I like to visit the tropics, but I can't imagine living there. I love seasons. I love winter. Summer is my least favorite month. In winter, you can stoke the fire, add clothes, move around. In summer, once you're all but naked and still dripping sweat, all you can do is stay inside with the air conditioning. I'm a poor house dog.

I've already told her—though she thinks I'm kidding—that if I do move I'll rename my blog Purgatory In the Palms.

Val said...

"...while I carried a flashlight, I almost never turned it on—preferring instead to allow my sight to adjust to the available light. You’d be surprised how well you can actually see sometimes..."

I remember Abbey writing about this same thing in Desert Solitaire. I think this is something I definitely need to put on my "To-Do" list.

And your comment about not liking summertime, "once you're all but naked and still dripping sweat, all you can do is stay inside with the air conditioning. I'm a poor house dog..." I've said almost the exact same words many times! And I'm from NC where 98 degrees and 98% humidity are the norm for the summer. I couldn't stand it as a child and I can't stand it now. But, and this is a big BUT, it is all worth it just for October. There is nothing like an October afternoon in NC. The bluest of blue skies and the freshest of fresh air.
Heavenly.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I have always been a morning person, Scribe - which is just as well now that I am married to a farmer - for he is a super-early riser. There is something about the morning that is clean - the smell of dew on the grass I suppose it is. Everything seems fresh and new and you see so much more wildlife at that time of day.

The Solitary Walker said...

Purgatory in the Palms! You made me chuckle, Grizzled. You can not go to Florida under any circumstances!

For a start the intense heat would probably make you change your sleeping pattern yet again - you'd be crashing out for a good 12 hours, which would not do at all. Think of all the fish you'd miss catching in those alligator pools!

And also - your loyal and enthusiastic readers would miss ENORMOUSLY all those Ohio sunrises and sunsets, those ripples and riffles...

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Val…

Sorry to be slow in answering—went off for an hour's errand and ended up making the day and half the night of it!

You really ought to try a few night hikes/walks one of these days. Pick some place you know to begin, not deep woods, and do it on a clear night, maybe with at least a partial moon. Let your eyes adjust and try to not use the flashlight. Take a friend. And please pick a safe place. A lot of the really serious outdoor people I know love to ramble around after dark. But remember—Ohio is not much of a poisonous snake state; NC is, in certain areas.

FYI, I used to do two week-long photography courses every October at a lodge in western North Carolina (the Smokies/Snowbirds area) so I know full well just how stunning your home state can be in the fall. I do think it's funny you can't stand the heat, though.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

I kinda figured you'd be a morning person. And you're right about mornings being so productive for wildlife. I did know and take advantage of that over the years, of course, in my outdoor endeavors. But I had to have a reason to get up at or before dawn—otherwise, I reverted to type, stayed up late, slept a few hours, got up in midmorning.

Now, I beat the squirrels and robins up! And I've been a convert for several years. I can tell you, such a change would have shocked my father!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

Trust me, I do not wish to move to Florida, and won't if I can help myself. Do you know the highest hill in the entire state is a measly 300 or so feet high! And that would be maybe 250 higher than any I've ever noted. Florida is flat and hot.

I have actually spent a lot of time in Florida over the years, fishing, camping, visiting friends, just being a tourist. There are some pretty places in Florida. The Keys, from an angling standpoint, are sensational. But I like real trees—hickories, oaks, sycamores, hemlocks—not things that resemble the tops of pineapples.

If anything, I'd bet my sleep habits would get worse—meaning less—because of the heat, depression, the view outside my prison (I mean air-conditioned home's) window. I'd probably become a bum, take up serious drinking, grow a beard like Hemingway, and languish in some rummy bar listening to Jimmy Buffet music.

It is nice to be told me and my riffles/ripples would be missed by my legion of devoted readers.

The Solitary Walker said...

You make Florida sound almost attractive, Grizzled! Camping, drinking, being a bum, growing a beard - gosh, it sounds like me in a previous existence (still doing the camping, though).

I've never had any desire to revisit Florida after a 2 week trip there with the family I don't know how long ago. After spending an anxious night alongside drug-runners in a Miami motel (by an unfortunate accident, I hasten to add), after my wife approached an alligator she thought was a model but was actually a real one (Japanese tourists down the boardwalk half a mile away could hear the screams), and after too many days with the kids in the theme parks of Orlando (the themes were mainly Coke-franchising and Burger-marketing as far as I can recall)... we boarded the plane home with some degree of relief!

Though I'm being disingenuous as I did like the Everglades and some of the Keys, especially Key West.

(And nearly ran out of fuel on a long road bridge between 2 of the Keys... scary!)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

In fairness, there are some lovely natural areas in Florida—swamps, woodlands, mangroves, beaches, keys, rivers, etc. I even like some of the tourist stuff. AS A TOURIST! For a while. But more, I love seasons and a landscape with ups and downs; doesn't have to be mountains, hills are fine. And I want to see changing leaves and at least some snow. (I just can't imagine how you get in the Bing Crosby White Christmas/chestnuts roasting by an open fire…/Charles Dickiens/Jingle Bells spirit down there come December—nor do I want to learn.)

Florida is a great place to fish. To be bit on the butt (or frightened) by an alligator. To get a great tan/sunburn/melanoma. To wear baggy shorts, flip-flops, a straw hat and a shirt with flamingos…and be mistaken for a banker. To laze on sling chair within sound of the surf, sip a tall margarita and read John D. MacDonald, Carl Hassian, or Randy Wayne White.

But live there, like all year…naaaaah! I'd rather set my nose hairs on fire.