Here in midlife, I’ve become an early riser. I am usually up before the sun, 5:30 or 6 in the morning, sometimes even earlier, and I love the quiet time before anyone in the house is awake except me and the cat. It’s also a crucial part of my work schedule. So I get up, get a cup of tea if I’m chilly, and settle down to the computer, or my notebook, or a book. And in the past several years I have written or read my way through sunrise every single time. Not once have I gone for a walk to hear the dawn chorus up close, or stepped out the back door for a moment to look at the eastern sky. Maybe I would have done otherwise if the house faced east instead of west, if I could have just peeped out the kitchen window as I got my tea and seen more than dimness, but if I’m honest I have to say, probably not. I think of a philosophy professor who, legend had it, wouldn’t pass anyone who hadn’t gotten up to see the sunrise once, and I know that I’m neglecting a part of my education, and a part of my being. I’ve seen the sunrise before, and I haven’t regretted missing it when I was getting needed sleep, but to be awake and not take note of it seems like a sad waste.
I’ve thought about this from time to time and said to myself that I was going to pause to watch the sun come up one of these mornings, set an alarm if necessary to drag my head out of the laptop, but I haven’t done it.
Then, yesterday morning, Mookie came running into our room while it was still dark, saying “You have to see the sky! It’s so beautiful. It’s the sunrise!” and that, that was irresistible. I went into her room with her and pulled back the curtain to see the pink clouds and peeping sun that have been there for me every morning. I had ignored them for hundreds of mornings, but I couldn’t say no to her, and so at last I opened my hands to the gift they offered.
I’ve used the poem “Summons” by Robert Francis in at least one Sunday service.
Keep me from going to sleep too soon
Or if I go to sleep too soon
Come wake me up.
See that I see, he begs. Mookie does this for us every day–not usually while we’re trying to sleep nowadays, a change for which I admit I’m grateful–but in the many ways she says, Look at me, Look at this, Come play, Come see. Often I put her off. She wants to play and I join in half-heartedly, hoping she’ll get lost in her imagination again and I won’t really have to spend too much time on the floor moving paper dolls around. Or I know she would enjoy time in the yard if I gave her a nudge, but I’m content for us both to hole up indoors, so I let her inertia carry me. But the words, “Come look,” are ones I can almost never resist. Yesterday, my daughter invited me to live by the words I had quoted and approved, but often ignored. And I was loath even to thank her, because one rule of parenting is Never Encourage Them to Wake You Up Early (though, it being winter, it was only 20 minutes before my alarm would have gone off anyway), but I was so delighted by the simple glory of the morning, and so delighted that it delighted her, that of course I did. And I’m thanking her again, here. Thank you, baby. Keep seeing that I see, please, always, and I will try not to be too hard persuaded.