I love the silence of mornings. The darkness wraps around me. The perfect place is in the pitch dark, with a heater whose glowing elements and humming fan struggle to heat a too-large room. The hum nurtures me and the focus of heat makes me feel small and fetal. With the cold at my back and the heat gently blowing in my face and chest I curl up and am absorbed by the heat. It draws me in and protects me. It’s my time, I am alone. I am not yet born. I can still become anything.
When I was a small child I pictured the perfect mornings of my adulthood. As I watched my Saturday morning cartoons, laughing along with Huckleberry Hound and his friends, I could picture myself someday when I was really old, like 30 or something: I would imagine myself holding a hot cup of coffee in my hand. I knew adults liked their morning coffee. In my perfect morning I would be laying back, in footed pajamas, in a large room lit only by a fireplace. It would be winter, predawn. With coffee in hand and Huckleberry Hound and his friends on the TV and the sound all the way off, I would sit in front of the fire and listen to the crackle, try to hear the fog swirling against the windows. I would revel in the perfection of morning.
I’ve always been mesmerized by fog. It’s a big part of what drew me to this city. In the silence of mornings, I arise to be born for the day. I twist and stretch and warm myself up. I like to go jogging before people wake up, and I head out the door before 4:30. In the silence of mornings I can tune in to different sounds. I take comfort in hearing what others don’t usually hear, seeing what others don’t usually see. I feel more connected. The city always has a hum of traffic. Always. But in the silence of mornings it’s more singular, more solitary. It bounces through the fog. It’s distinct to individual cars, heard but not often seen. Taxis around the city make up most of the predawn traffic, and I can hear one here, one there. In between is silence.
The air near the ground is usually still in the silence of mornings, but overhead a gentle breeze stirs. Running down Dolores, the breeze overhead chases me, teases me. It runs ahead of me, laughs and lets me pass, and leaps ahead again. It rustles the skirts of the palm trees, shaking them like pompoms, cheering for the day to be born. Young birds, unfledged, cry in the palms for breakfast and the breeze tries to quiet them.
In the silence of mornings I can almost hear the temperature changing as I go from hill to valley and back. The sounds are different, distint. The sharp openness of the crest is countered with the muffled closeness of the valleys. The fog is different. It smells different. I smell fireplaces, smokey and sweet. I smell the ocean, salty and acrid. I smell grass and air. Passing the bars, I smell alcohol and vomit, and bleach as the day begins to shape itself and workers are cleaning the streets. I smell urine and unwashed clothing from people sleeping in doorways as I dodge and hurdle their legs lying across the sidewalk.
I love hearing foghorns as I run in the silence of mornings. Each one unique and distinct, they bounce at me from different directions. They tell me the water is not far away, but I can’t tell where each sound begins. As one draws me to it, another is sending me away. They’re like the breeze, they’re teasing me and chasing me, beckoning and heralding for the day to be born.
I’ve always loved the fog. As a child, camping out one summer on a beach at the Russian River, I always woke with the first hint of light. Climbing through the fog I could hear the silence of mornings. The murmur of water splashing on the rocks downstream was muffled in the morning fog. The occasional splish of a small fish in the water hinted at the awakening day. As I sat on a rock at water’s edge the fog would slowly thin to reveal the great blue herons and white egrets all standing perfectly still on one leg in the shallow water, sentinels guarding the silence of mornings. This was my time, I was alone.
I love the silence of mornings. It’s my favorite time of day, arising early to watch the world wake up. I do my best thinking in the mornings, my mind is clearest. I’m most excited about the day before the sun comes up. The day is not yet born. It can still become anything.