It is not often I'm awake to hear the early morning bird songs as nature wakes to a new day. I can't recall the last time I actually witnessed the sky lightening or the sun rising. It may well have been last year at this time, after I dropped my son off to get on the bus for camp. Perhaps this will be an annual occurrence?
I am a night owl, not one of those early morning birds eager to catch the worm. I'll happily stay up until 2 a.m. with the knowledge that, most mornings, I can sleep until at least 9:00. Seven hours of sleep does me just fine. Sunday is the one day a week I usually have to set the alarm. Church is at 9:00, so I'm up at 7:30. One short sleep night won't kill me, though I get out bed each sabbath morning promising myself an afternoon nap (though I rarely follow through).
Today it is Sunday. This morning, very early, I took my kids to church to drop them off for the carpool to the camp buses. They'll be home late Friday night. Knowing the rendezvous time was 5 a.m. (otherwise known to me as "ungodly o'clock"), I attempted an early bedtime. Midnight. It's true what they say about attempting to change your bed time...do it slowly, a little earlier each night over a week or so, because to try and change it drastically in one night? Probably will not work.
And work it did not. I laid in bed and tossed and turned. One o'clock passed, then two. Surely by then, I thought, I should be falling asleep. It was my normal bedtime, after all! But no. Whether I was keyed up thinking about the kids' upcoming week (myriad thoughts of my own youth group trips from years ago came flooding unbidden through my sleepless brain) or perhaps it had something to do with the iced mocha I indulged in last evening (though coffee rarely keeps me awake at night, no matter how late I drink it), sleep was elusive. By 3:30, I abandoned pretense and got out of bed, allowing my husband the luxury of a bed sans a restless wife.
Sitting in the silent dark of the living room (not even the birds were stirring yet), I logged on to the computer. I checked Plurk. Only one update. I checked my Ravelry boards. Very few new posts. The rest of the world was sleeping. How dare they, when I could not?
Four-thirty finally came, and the kids got out of bed. With minimal bustle and little conversation, they dressed and gathered the last of their things, stuffing packs of Pop-Tarts into their backpacks to eat later on. I paused during the process long enough to take in the intensely black sky that showed off the beauty of the constellations even more than it had earlier in the night when I'd gone out to gaze at it. Perhaps it was worth being up at 4:30 a.m. just for this?
With the car loaded and me inexplicably wide awake, we headed to the church where we gathered with the families of eight other middle schoolers and their chaperones. Last minute paper work was cared for, luggage was tagged (that became my duty for the second year in a row) and loaded into the two vans making the trip to the bus pick-up point. Forty minutes later, the campers were blessed and in the cars, and we parents were back on our way home.
My trip home included a McDonald's drive thru, as I was ravenous after my unplanned night-long vigil. Not the healthiest way to start the day, but it satisfied.
I'm currently reading Brida by Paulo Coehlo. Early on in the story, Brida comes to spend a night alone in the forest, awake and fearful until she remembers the words her father used to say to her when she was a child, "The night is just a part of the day."
"The night is just a part of the day. Therefore she could feel as safe in the dark as she did in the light...'I learned about the Dark Night,' she said to the now silent forest. 'I learned that the search for God is a Dark Night, that Faith is a Dark Night. And that's hardly a surprise, really, because for us each day is a dark night. None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, and yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.'" Brida, pages 16, 17.
There is magic in the dark night. I do not pretend to understand it, but every time I experience it, it is a gift. I witness the same aspects of God's creation day after day by the light of the sun, and for a few hours here and there by the moon's illumination. But these dark, dark nights? Where the stars are as deep as the sea and the very air around me carries the weight of a different dimension? The darkest minutes before the eastern sky shows a sign that morning indeed will come? They are rare for me.
The silence, the stillness, the uninterrupted time alone. They are a gift, and I am thankful for them this early Sunday morning. I will pay the price later as I begin to drag and my body starts to ache for lack of sleep. But it will be worth it for what I received in exchange. And I can always take a nap this afternoon.