I am not a morning person. Not anymore. As a kid I woke before dusk, often before 5 a.m. I recall how dark and still it was during that time of the early morning. I often felt I owned the world. This was especially true in the winter when the days were shorter and few birds were around to chirp and sing as dawn set in. Sometimes it seemed my ears would buzz with the effort of listening for something beyond the silence. Once, after seeing a Twilight Zone episode about a guy who hides in a bank vault during lunch and ends up as the only survivor of a nuclear holocaust, I raced around our house to make sure my family was all still there—just asleep in their beds (as I was supposed to be). Even as a teen, I don’t recall ever sleeping past noon as many of my friends did.
During my 20s and 30s, when I was holding down a full-time job that required overtime, things shifted. Because I was determined to make it as a writer, I found time to make a little progress every week despite long hours at work. This often meant writing while everyone slept. Over time, I found a part-time evening job which allowed me to create until the late hours, as I’d been doing with a day job. Eventually, my writing schedule was my own and I could create whenever I chose.
The past few years, however, I’ve been teaching part-time at a local college. I love the work and my students, but somehow I ended up teaching early morning classes. Of course, I still do my school visits and writing workshops which has meant some very long days, starting at the college first thing in the morning and some days also teaching a workshop until 9:00 p.m.
This semester I’m scheduled to teach late morning, afternoon, and evening classes. I’ve spent the holiday break allowing myself to shift from being a morning person to a night owl again. Perhaps I was simply too busy before to notice, but the night holds its own activities and silences. While there are times in the deep night when silence seems to echo in my ears, the night noises around here include the music of frogs and crickets, the splash of fish or turtles in the ponds, and the squeal of bats. And it is not always blackness, either. At times the moon makes the dew-kissed lawn look silvery, as if covered in front or a thin blanket of snow.
Once the sounds from neighboring condos ceases, and car motors or road noises diminish in the early a.m. hours, it feels much the same as those childhood mornings when it felt I owned the world. I own my time. I own the characters and plots in the projects I work on. But I also own the night.