It’s the way the air feels.

That’s the real reason I get out of bed early, 4 or 5, taking three long minutes to walk up the stairs so I can do it so quietly, quietly, in my soft gray robe and old-woman slippers.

Then flip the switch on the coffee maker. Bathroom. Toilet, teeth, wash, try not to look in the mirror.

That’s not what you want to do in the morning, in the early-morning air. You don’t want to quite directly face your own self, the reality of your body or your eyes, a little haunted and a little shallow.

You want to keep things quiet and dim, slow, smooth, gliding through like you’re still a little asleep, because you are.

That’s the way I like mornings, anyway, the very early part, the first hour that I give myself.

It’s the way the air feels, scrubbed clean, unused, crisply fresh but with this smooth, silky gliding over your skin feeling.

The same paradox of my Mom’s hands, which were wrinkled on the top and softer than down on her palms and even as that palm cupped your chin, maybe, or patted your hand, you felt her steel-wool determinism. I am pretty sure she willed a good world into being every morning, for the duration of my childhood.

You get that cup of coffee and take a sip, and then sit at your desk facing out of the window that looks across the street. It’s still dark, grayish dark, with fog sitting on the sidewalk, but as you sip the coffee, and read something, and start making a few notes on a piece of paper, you see it lighten.

You spend maybe more time just looking out the window than you do looking at words, reading or writing them.

You see half of the brown brick duplex, and the cedar tree covered in ivy, and the lid of your trash cans, and a layer of brown sycamore leaves on wet grass, and the strip of gray road and beyond that, every fifteen minutes or so, the train cars moving through.

The fog clears and you are on your second or third cup of coffee and the first school buses are climbing the hill.

You get down to business: finish the paragraph, write something, go over your plan, review the schedule, think hard about something, answer questions and emails, make up some goals, pretend you’re in charge.

I pretend it’s about the notebooks, the work, the quiet, the delight of words, the need to focus. Maybe it is, a little bit.

But mostly it’s about the air and how it feels, and how I breathe it in until it becomes my own cool, fresh center for the rest of the day.

Photo Credit: jenny downing