August 30th, 2007


Feeling like an Owl... or a Freight Train

We're four days into the school year over here and we are no longer startling at the school bell or looking at lunchboxes as if they're unidentified flying objects. In fact, we're kind of getting into the groove. 

I mean, not counting the lost water bottle on Monday, my late pick-up on Tuesday or the tears on Wednesday. We are not in the business of miracles, I'm afraid.

Still, for all my regret at leaving summer behind, I am remembering now the beauty of routine. 
And solitude. Which, when you work at home with only your own ideas for company, you get a lot of. 
Lots of folk would rather die than give up the company of the outside world, but I'm not much of a water cooler gal myself. You could take a look at my checkered employment history to see what I mean.

Today I was reading some bits of Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac, which you oughta read if you haven't. He was the quintessential naturalist and the Almanac is nothing short of poetry. And, let's face it, it's another book I wish I'd written. I have my grandparents' copy -- meaningful because ol' Aldo was from Wisconsin which is where my grandparents lived their lives, surrounded by lakes and birch trees, and because they held it in their hands and the paper smells like their house. It makes me feel like they're a little less gone.

Now I don't know about your routine, but I'm an early riser myself. I don't do all my writing at the crack of dawn, but I'm not much for sleeping in when the air is crisp and dusky and only the cats are out. So here's the bit that really struck me about the Almanac today, the part that articulates why I love what I do, why getting up in the dark is a beautiful thing, why sitting or walking with only my own thoughts for company is, often, company enough.

Too Early
-- an excerpt from Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

Getting up too early is a vice habitual in horned owls, stars, geese, and freight trains. Some hunters acquire it from geese, and some coffee pots from hunters. It is strange that of all the multitude of creatures who must rise in the morning at the same time, only these few should have discovered the most pleasant and least useful time for doing it.

Orion must have been the original mentor of the too-early company, for it is he who signals for too-early rising...

Early risers feel at ease with each other, perhaps because, unlike those who sleep late, they are given to understatement of their own achievements. Orion, the most widely traveled, says literally nothing. The coffee pot, from its first soft gurgle, underclaims the virtues of what simmers within. The owl, in his trisyllabic commentary, plays down the story of the night's murders. The goose on the bar, rising briefly to a point of order in some inaudible anserine debate, lets fall no hint that he speaks with the authority of all the far hills and the sea.

The freight, I admit, is hardly reticent about his own importance, yet even he has a kind of modesty: his eye is single to his own noisy business, and he never comes roaring  into somebody else's camp. I feel a deep security in thie single-mindedness of freight trains.