I like early mornings when time moves deliberately, in slow motion. I wish I could sleep until I’m slept out, but my mind resides in its own time zone and, once alert, I am a powerless captive at its mercy. The only way to take control is to get up and get going. As I head downstairs, our black Lab, Doug, rises with a long stretch, punctuated by a few grunts of pleasure, and wags his rudder-like tail in greeting. Its metallic thwack against the dishwasher is like some sorority rite that initiates suffer at the hands of their sisters. Even he must agree that the noise is an assault on early morning nerves.
I get the coffee started and fill his bowl with kibble to give him something else to focus his enthusiasm on, but Doug is not interested in food just yet, so he lies down, watching to see what I might do next. Coffee mug in hand, I give him the signal to follow me outside to the terrace, where I sit down on the chaise, and my faithful companion curls up alongside me. The air is still, the cold freshness surrounds us and the damp air is wonderful for my sinuses. My hands wrap around my mug as much to keep the coffee warm as to keep my hands comfortable. I drink it quickly, realizing that my terry robe is no match for the chill. But I’m committed to watching the sun come up, and I head back inside to change into warm pants and a down vest, and pour another mug before returning to our observation post.
If it’s not raining, it’s a good bet that a November morning will deliver a beautiful sunrise. The stillness of the season is a matchless backdrop. The trees in our backyard are lanky and tall, their branches slim and flexible. They are mostly bare now with just a few lazy leaves hanging on, dangling in the air drafts, mocking gravity and Mother Nature. In the side yard, the copper beech, its black-green leaves and wonderful canopy our pride and joy throughout the summer, is turning the color of its name. Earlier in the week, it was a bright yellow, the intensity of its hue broadcast through the sunlight to all who drove by. Now its leaves are the color of copper pots that are well used and seldom polished. The beech is the last tree to leaf out in spring and the last to accept winter’s inevitable chilly clutch. I imagine it purposely holding back, letting the others flare up and fade, the more intense impression to make later when a gray canvas shows off its brilliance.
This is the perfect time of day for reflection, for daydreaming, for considering the possibilities for the day ahead. Sitting still, taking time to concentrate on the immediacy of your senses and surroundings, is powerful. The sky is striated in big bands of baby blue and pink — shell pink is what my mother called it — and the sun sends a message: Be ready, the show will be fleeting, pay close attention. Sure enough, the clearly defined bands begin to soften and gold bubbles at the horizon briefly before diffusing its warm light. Suddenly, clouds become visible, wisps of white replace the pink and blue and a few stray puffs float by on a gentle breeze from the west.
The newspaper deliveryman tears down our lane at breakneck speed, barely slowing to toss the paper at our driveway. I hope he doesn’t run into deer. Doug, curled up by my side, now sits up to glance around. Doing his “perimeter search,” his gaze penetrates the wooded areas surrounding our yard for the deer that lurk in the shadows. We hear soft steps on a bluestone driveway and Doug is airborne, running to the fence, demonstrating his fiercest bark. His performance completed, he returns to the chaise and I reprimand him as I have done many times before, reminding him that our neighbor is just picking up her morning newspaper. Undiminished by the scolding, he sits looking at me, his dark brown eyes just inches away from mine. He leans in to lick my face.
Now that the sun has introduced the day, everything comes to life. A plane appears in the sky, following the east-to-west flight pattern across the length of Long Island that most take when headed for J.F.K. A songbird comments on the sky’s delicate color and a crow has a raucous retort. A couple of miles to the north, the Montauk train approaches on its trip west to Penn Station. With three short, measured toots, it warns early morning workers on the tracks to move away and the commuters to pick up briefcases and be ready to board. My eyes wander around the terrace.
There are still unfinished chores to do before deep winter arrives. The birdbath and remaining pots must be stored in the garage before freezing moisture cracks the clay. Some day, I will exchange all the terra-cotta for look-alike plastic pots that don’t require the strength of a weight lifter to bring them in. Next summer when I am standing in the middle of a colorful display of flowering plants at the garden center, I will remind myself that I can’t overwinter every single annual plant in my sunny dining room. It’s time, too, to dress the fig tree on the south side of the house in its unsightly winter outfit of beach towels and tarp, securely accessorized with bungee cords to protect its Mediterranean sensibilities from the harsh cold and snow ahead. It seems to have adjusted to its new location and I’m looking forward to its first crop of figs next August.
Other car sounds begin to intrude on the day as people head off to work. Soon there will be landscapers and the grating noise of leaf blowers. Canada geese end their overnight stay on Moriches Bay, pick up the rhythm, and call out to one another as they fly overhead. Doug raises his head to see what the cacophony is all about, but they are too far away to chase and he has other things on his mind. Reality calls when a tiny whine and another lick signal that it’s finally time for breakfast. Doug has had enough of my introspection. Let’s get on with it, he is saying. And, we do.
Marsha Kenny earned a master’s of fine arts degree in creative writing and literature from Stony Brook Southampton. Her writing has been published in The East Hampton Star, The Southampton Review, and other local publications. She is director of marketing and public affairs at Southampton Hospital.