Early morning – well, at least it is after midnight.
I get up, pull on a jacket, scuff my feet into slippers. I make a cup of tea. The steam tickles my face as I take the first sip.
Gazing out the back door, I am entranced by the serenity of the lake in the moonlight. I turn the key gently until the quiet click lets me know that I can open the door, and I step outside into the peacefulness.
I shiver in the chilly night air. I pull my jacket tighter around my body, crisscrossing it over me in a hug. I realize I’m grateful to feel the coolness, I’m grateful to feel the warmth and security of my jacket, I’m grateful to feel.
A car slows, I hear a gentle slap as the newspaper hits the pavement. I look at the clock, it’s 3:35. Right on time. I walk out in the darkness, barely able to see the packet lying on the driveway. Picking it up, I go back to the deck. I place the paper on the table; I’ll read it, later.
Every porch needs a rocking chair. I settle into mine. The chair wraps its arms around me, holding me with secure care. For a while I just sit quietly, unmoving, immersing myself into the pre-dawn secrecy.
The night is full of sounds. I’m sure most of them can be heard in the daylight but we tend to drown them out with our own busyness of living. Choruses of bullfrogs sing. Their big bass voices sound like they should be coming from some huge animal; I smile to think of the tiny frogs, booming out their love songs to each other. From the corner of my yard a frog sings out; from far in the distance I can hear the responses of other frogs in other coves. My chair squeaks as I begin to rock. The alien sound silences the frogs momentarily, but they soon realize my squeaking chair is not a threat, and then resume their serenades.
A great blue heron glides in. In the peace of the morning, I can even hear his wings as they slice through the air. He lands near the dock and begins stalking along at the edge of the water.
I watch him as he dips his beak into the water, searching for the promise of some tender morsel of food. He scoops up a mussel, steps onto shore. He drops the mussel onto the ground, then I hear a sharp snap as he thrusts his beak into it, cracking the hard shell open, gobbling up the tiny bit of protein inside.
I watch the heron for a long time. Ten minutes? Thirty minutes? An hour? I’m not sure; time seems irrelevant in the darkness. Sometimes he stops, cocks his head, and I think he’s watching me as I watch him.
The black velvet sky fades to gray as dawn starts to creep in. I hear a whippoorwill sing; other birds start to join in – nature’s alarm clock. The heron looks at me once again, bobs his head as if to say goodbye, then flies away.
Mist forms over the water, swirling and dancing before vaporizing into the air, vanishing before my very eyes. My thoughts, too, swirl and dance then vaporize into reality.
Sounds of humanity spill into the day. I hear cars traveling along River Road in the distance. I don’t see them, but I can hear them through the woods. I sigh as my thoughts become invaded by the list of things I should try to accomplish during the day. Reluctantly, I rise and turn to go inside.
Later today, I’ll walk along the shore. I’m sure I’ll see the remnants of the mussel shells, littered in the mud like tiny broken hearts, devoid of their promises.