Before the Birds

Just on the other side of the French doors, past the artificial light from the bronze lamp with the burlap shade, beyond the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and the warmth of a settled home dotted with breakfast-drowsy pets, lies my motivation for rising before the birds.

A pair of estate sale wicker chairs with new cushions bookend a tired, worn dresser scarred with the memory of candle wax and perspiring drinks, nicked in moves and too weak to hold much in its drawers, supported by cracked and tiny, but mighty casters.

Atop the dresser rests a wooden vase filled with dried eucalyptus and the sensual power to transport me back to a sprawling 18th century farm in the hills of central Pennsylvania. My grandparents’ second act in life. Move to the country raise a few cows, fill the home with antiques and eucalyptus, live with a ghost or two. My childhood spent running toward a pond that housed geese that would flog me and a field of cows surrounded by barbed wire that would scratch me, yet I  look back with nothing but longing and love.

Adjacent to the vase on this beaten up bureau is a lamp with a round base fashioned of curved, vertical iron bars held together by a single ring made of the same iron wrapping itself around the orb, set askew. It reminds me of that picture of a globe and the airplane flying around it, so it reminds me of travel, so it feels like home and possibility all at once. There is a wooden box with faded painted flowers that contains tea lights for nights when the bulbs are too bright for deep conversation. A handmade cup holds a bouquet of colored pens and highlighters, a habit picked up from my mother. A single, hand-knitted coaster, made by a friend sits patiently awaiting my favorite coffee mug purchased from a young potter at an art show who wasn’t sure at all if the artists path was for him.

There are blankets haphazardly strewn on the chairs year round. In summer they form extra cushion for Kitty Andersen who calls this place her bedroom each night, in the “winter” they are wrapped around me as I appreciate the cooler air. And sometimes Kitty Andersen.

This place, the back porch, my morning haven, is screened, but beyond it’s barely discernible barrier lies the tiny backyard dense with flora and fauna for our entertainment and gratitude. Native trees and uninvited ground covering form a lush environment for red, blue and gray birds, lizards, spiders and squirrels. An old glass pie plate, placed strategically on the aluminum patio set pilfered from my great grandparents home, stands in for a bird bath and drinking fountain for all. Even wasps and lizards in the high white heat of summer.

It is here I begin my day, in the dark, with a steaming cup of coffee, my journal and a pen carefully chosen for its color from the hand sculpted cup. I curl into the chair like a just fed baby squirrel in a trusted hand. Sometimes I stare into the dark, journal and pen in my lap, hands wrapped around my morning brew and listen. Often it is silent. It’s the space between the overnight shift and the morning rush. Bugs are silent, put to bed by rhythms humans have long lost touch with, birds and squirrels are rolling over one more time before stretching and wiping the sleep from their eyes. Occasionally there is an owl, but he’s off in the distance, moving farther away, taking the night time with him.

Other times, I awake with thoughts in my head – sometimes fuzzy dreams – that are asking to be transcribed to the page and the light comes on before the caffeine reaches my fingers. Always after the initial words have tumbled onto the page I pause, gaze into the dark, take a sip of coffee, breathe in the coming day.

A bird chirps, a lizard skitters, the sky morphs from dark blue to medium gray with blushing clouds. From here the day accelerates, the sky becomes light, the squirrels chase across the tops of the wooden fence, the cars begin to transport their sleepy occupants to places they’d rather not go – mostly – and the dog scratches to go outside once more.

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