"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 some time, only these few should have discovered the most pleasant and least useful time for doing it."
-Aldo Leopold in Sand County Almanac - Oxford 1949
I have never been an early riser, but they say that as one gets older the need for sleep decreases. That may be true, for as the years pass, I seem to be rising earlier and earlier. Perhaps I need less sleep now, but most likely I get up early because it is too uncomfortable to stay in bed longer. Around daybreak, I wake up and my back hurts, my arm has gone to sleep, my legs ache and, unable to go back to sleep, I just get up. Somewhat reluctantly, I have discovered the pleasures of early rising.
Yesterday morning I got up early. Rain had fallen during the night and fog had settled around the lake. I drank my tea, stared out the kitchen window and watched cardinals and sparrows mysteriously materialize at the feeder and then vanish in the fog. A good morning to be outside. As I stepped out into the yard I disturbed a flight of doves who were sleeping in the locust tree in front of the house. They did not like being startled from their roost so early. I could not see them in the fog, but I heard the annoyed beating of their wings. After the doves flew away, the morning was quiet.
Birds sing constantly during the spring and summer, wooing mates, defending territory and rejoicing at being alive during the sunny and warm days. In high summer, mockingbirds sing outside our bedroom window all night long. But come September birds go about their business in silence, except for the geese, who, not unlike some people, are always ready with a garrulous opinion regardless of the season or time of day.
Down by the lake, the leaves were starting to turn colors and many were falling, revealing distances that only a few weeks ago were hidden behind a wall of green. I stood at the edge of the lake in the damp morning and peered into the fog. The trees on the far bank were vague shapes with a hint of autumn color. Suddenly, the silence was broken by a chorus of tree frogs filling the morning with a song as repetitious as the seasons.
Cold nights will silence the frogs soon enough, and winter is just around the corner. But the sound of the frogs reminds me that spring will come, and once again birds, rising early, will fill the world with song.