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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

early bird

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5:30am

It's Monday, and you slept in an hour because you have no student appointments today. The only thing calling you to the university is answering emails. You shower so your hair can start air drying and in your long heavy gray winter robe you pour your first cup of coffee, add vanilla soy and a blip of half and half. Stir with a long thin sturdy plastic spoon from Ireland because plastic is quieter than steel against the ceramic, important when someone else is sleeping.

You add a log to the wood stove and open the vent. It will take a few minutes for the orange embers to burst into flame and be visible through the creosote dimmed door. You hear a tick-tick-ticking just before the log ignites. It won't be light outside for another hour and a half, you see two or three stars shimmering between clouds. There is just one dim table lamp on. You wonder when you first began to like getting up so early, feeling robbed if it is already light when you awake. Your mother who got up early too would by now have already prayed on her knees for every world country's leader by name in her morning routine. With the smell of coffee and wood fire in your nostrils, you plop into your chilly red leather chair, covering your lap with a fleece blanket, and your laptop.

6:30am

You pour your second cup of coffee, and a cup for Don who is now up. Where did that hour go? Oh yes - besides gmail, a little quiet music, Facebook and blog comments, you also read some news stories, especially the one about hating Obama - that if you do you are likely to be white. Thank goodness your mother and father taught you not to hate blacks. The family room is toasty.

7:30am

Don has left for school, and it's light now - though gray and wintry, a light breeze bobbing the yellow tipped bamboo. This makes you think of President Obama again, because he's in China today (or is it tomorrow? he was just in Japan, when does he sleep?), where there is apparently deep cultural prejudice against blacks. After an essay by Ann Claycomb* about feeling like a terrible mother, you open the latest digital New Yorker - more palatable than the hard copy sitting on the kitchen table because you can read it without holding anything but your coffee cup. (You would not be able to read it online if you didn't have that subscribed copy on the table though. Ironic.) You used to think that people who got up early were the ultimate non-lazy people - industrious and worm-catching. You've changed your mind, and you realize your mother has flown up somewhere into the stratosphere of your esteem.

You read the article on the Michelin restaurant rating system from start to finish as hungrily as if you were eating a meal at a 3-star restaurant in Paris, which you've done thrice, unbelievably. The Michelin restaurant inspectors are anonymous and work long days, not paid too well, but wouldn't that be a great job, except for those long forms you have to complete after each meal, taking an hour. You know you are nowhere close to high society, you live on a farm with rustic outbuildings and chickens running in the yard, you and your husband have modest salaries in your thank-goodness jobs, and yet you have been served the food of the gods - once at Taillevent and twice at Le Grand Véfour. You contemplate blogging about those experiences and think better of it. Too much work to fire up the Paris blog again with old photos to process, and so many beggars in Mumbai and mine victims in Kabul with one leg or arm lurking in the vestibule. That would take more energy, better writing and less conscience than you feel capable of today.

9:30 am

You are still on your arse, with a warm machine bringing heat and information from around the globe onto your lap. Half-way through the Michelin article you have seven additional Internet tabs open: one on force feeding ducks for foie gras, the second the Michelin site Famously Anonymous, the third a list of 138 of Jean-Georges Vongerichten's recipes (if you were industrious you could attack those the way Julie did in "Julia & Julie"), the fourth - wikipedia.org open to the word Kairos after Montag mentioned it at his blog (the man must read incessantly) - meaning among other things "the time when God acts," the fifth - Facebook where you had to post the salon.com article you read about Obama hatred from the rightwingnuts (not that anyone will read it), the sixth a Huffington Post piece about the irony of Sarah Palin's new book title Going Rogue, and the seventh is your work email because you just decided you're going to stay home by the fire and answer emails here today. This is after you already spent two perfectly good weekend days at home with nowhere to go.

You convince yourself that because you want to write about what you take in, and this morning's worms were too plump, tasty and plentiful to leave for another morning, you need a whole day just to digest them. And that deserves 3 stars.

* This post was inspired by the form Ann Claycomb used in her piece at brevity titled WQED, Channel 13: Programming Guide. I was so taken with her form, that I imitated it. Thanks to Montag whose comment triggered the conviction that I should rightfully link it here - not that he was guilting me!
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61 comments:

CottageGirl said...

Your itinerary sounds similar to mine, Ruth. --- Although I don't have a wood stove or the NY times. That internet is a great big library that you can visit any time from the comfort of your home. It's amazing how fast time goes when you're on it and all of the different places it leads you.

Your home sounds so inviting and cozy in the morning! Enjoy!

Judy said...

I have trouble getting out of bed early this time of year, but your creative blog post and morning routine made it sound almost worth it!

dutchbaby said...

Thank you for this dreamy post. You are the most considerate and thoughtful person to use a plastic spoon so as to not wake sleeping husband. I sat right next to you with my eight open pages warming my lap. My coffee: Peet's Sumatra, half warm milk, honey, half a blip (perfect word) of vanilla, and a dash of cinnamon (keeps my sugar cravings in check). I truly enjoyed watching dawn break with you. Your post is three stars and more.

ellen abbott said...

Great post. I am not an early riser. sometimes I think I would like to be but then I would have to go to bed at 8 PM cause I will sleep for 9 hours easy, sometimes 10 like last night. Except for my insomnia nights. But my mornings are very much like this one. Being self employed, my mornings are lazy but then I will often work til 7 PM.

The Bug said...

I'm naturally a night owl, but years of 9-5 have slowly converted me a bit. And now my body doesn't let me sleep as late as I used to. I thought I would be sad when that day arrived, but I actually feel invigorated & virtuous - not that I necessarily DO anything with my extra time LOL.

I'm planning to take tomorrow off from work (shh - my boss doesn't know!) My boss is on a business trip & I have done exactly three work related things so far this week - that's how slow we are - & I don't see a reason to come in to sit around & do nothing. So there!

Renee said...

Sweet Ruth thank you for the 3 star meal in Paris.

Your writing is wonderful.

By the way, I love being up early when everyone else is asleep.

My mother still sits and does her rosary every morning but no longer on her knees.

Love Renee xoxoxo

margie said...

the expression "wiling away your time" comes to mind. now i am off to google the origin of that expression!

Loring Wirbel said...

When I was young, I had a poem on my wall that ended with a line about "to praise, without blame, the facts just as they are." Have tried Googling to figure out who wrote this, but they seem to describe the way you can describe a scene exactly as experience leaves it.

Patricia said...

Ruth, You carried us through darkness into light, through crisp air into warmth, and you formed some pretty important questions while letting us enjoy those bits and pieces of life that make it enjoyable. Thanks for the morning reverie.

I just read in an email from the Washington Post that Obama may be coming back from China with nothing. The Chinese now feel powerful enough to refuse any requests....scary.

A Bite of Country Cupcakes said...

Sounds like a morning or two I could do with!
Lovely and restful

PurestGreen said...

This is the kind of thing that makes you think that yes, life is good. thank you for this little piece of mindfulness.

Sidney said...

I envy your mornings...at 6.30 am I am already stuck in traffic ! :-(

rauf said...

You are young and energetic Ruth and very active and very busy, Still you find time to write posts regularly and respond to lots and lots of comments. i have missed quite a few posts on Synchronizing in the last few days. I normally wake up early, but i find it hard to tell you what i do with abundance of time on my hand. i simply sit and do nothing. i can say i think and try to understand various things. My fading vision makes it difficult to read now. i feel even listening to music or watching movies is work. It takes me a couple of days to watch a movie. Sometimes i forget to watch the second half of a movie. i don't read news papers or the news on the net and you Ruth, my older sister and Ramesh are my main sources of news. i wonder just sitting an doing nothing is a good occupation !

Leena said...

I followed your stream of consciousness and saw you doing all those things. It was very familiar, but not this morning to me. I could not sleep last night, one week has gone at home and I miss children so much,I have difficulties to feel happy without seeing especially youngest ones. That is being a grandmother, the heart so full of feelings.
But now sleepy granny will start some reasonable work here - for instance collecting videos of children :))
And some baking, organizing, cleaning,taking care about Heikki and Kiki and so on. . .

Good Thursday to you, Ruth!

Ruth said...

CottageGirl, lately I can feel myself getting more sedentary, spending more time sitting. On weekends I try to intersperse my time with cleaning, yard work, laundry, etc. In the evenings I am reading. But I have not run on the treadmill in a few weeks or done Pilates.

Ruth said...

Hi, Judy, my cycle is early all around. I go to bed at 9. Some evenings I look wistfully at the clock at 7:30, wondering if I would be too ashamed to go to bed then. So when I wake up at 4:30, I have usually had close to 8 hours. I like the early morning quiet and solitude. I think we all need time alone.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Dutchbaby. Our morning rituals - mine at least, and it sounds like yours is too - are comforting and something to get out of bed for. When I'm lying cozily under the warm covers for a few minutes, eventually what gets me out is the anticipation of that first cup of coffee. I don't drink coffee for the caffeine. I drink it for the flavor. Thanks for your kind comment.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Ellen. You got me. I go to bed at 9. I am a source of joy to my family, they get a lot of amusement from this old crone. They look at the clock at 8 and say, "getting sleepy, Mom?" Believe me, Ellen, I get plenty of sleep. Just like my mother, I look forward to sleep as one of my great pleasures.

If you enjoy your work, which I think you do, maybe it isn't so bad working until 7. But if you have a customer deadline, that must be stressful.

Ruth said...

Dana, we all need "wellness" days! You can feel them creeping up. I can tell when I am getting sick inside - I mean it's a mental strain, and I have to release some pressure somehow. If I keep going without a break I'll just get resentful and grumpy.

I can't remember when the last time I stayed up and watched Saturday Night Live was. I used to do that when I was in college.

Ruth said...

Dear Renee, I don't know why the morning darkness feels different than the night darkness. They are the same window of darkness. But one is at the end of the day, one at the beginning, and the difference - in the mind - is big.

I have deep appreciation for sleep. It does remarkable things to a person. Perspectives change, moods change. Overnight hope is born again.

Sometimes it's the opposite.

Ruth said...

Hi, margie, what did you find out? I think my Grandma Olive would have called me a lazy good-for-nothing. Oh dear.

Ruth said...

Loring, that was a very gratifying comment. Thank you very much.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Patricia, for your kind comment.

I believe that President Obama's visit to China was important, even if there are no measurable outcomes. We are in China's debt. That requires a certain amount of deference and building of understanding between leaders. I heard someone on NPR say something that stuck with me, that if you owe the bank a dollar, the bank owns you. If you owe the bank a million dollars, you own the bank. China's investment in the U.S. means they need us to succeed. The reality is that we can be in partnership with them, or we can fight them. We have to help each other, along with India, Japan, and all emerging economies. When we help each other, we help ourselves. But then, that is a very ugly notion to a lot of people.

Ruth said...

Hi, Cupcakes, come on over. I'll make you sit for a while.

Ruth said...

Thank you, PurestGreen. A morning routine is good for me, and some mornings it just wants to spread to the afternoon.

Ruth said...

Sidney, you would have to get up very early to sit and do what I do here. Wow.

Ruth said...

rauf, I know you have not been well and it took a long time to shake the illness. That leaves you drained. But besides that, the heat, the many visitors who pour on you, and just the general busyness of life in Chennai are things that weigh on a person. I remember reading that Thoreau said something about needing to sit at his doorstep and just look out for the morning. That stillness - even if it's not in nature - is all that can be done sometimes. Maybe the cycle will change and bring you more energy again. I see you are going to be traveling this month, and you must look forward to that after so long.

Ruth said...

Oh, sweet Leena, I feel the sadness now that your precious grandchildren have left. When you send me pictures of Melli, my heart swells with grandmotherly (aunt-ly) fullness - and that is just a glimpse of what you feel. I hope you will adjust in the next few days.

Happy Thursday, my dear.

Ginnie said...

I watched everything you did, like a fly on the wall, and loved it, Ruth. A Monday morning in the life of my sister!

Anna MR said...

Hei Ruth. What you do here (and in the mornings) makes me want to be a morning person, too - something I've thought about becoming, forcing myself to become, from time to time. It is more in my nature to stretch the day behind me into the wonder no-man's land of night, though, although on the rare occasions I do get up very early (catching an early boat to Tallinn a couple of summers ago, for instance, or while I was in Edinburgh visiting a friend last winter and wanted to take in the city and its amazing morning light and everything), I without failure love it.

I don't, however, love getting up at six-thirty to stumble around making porridge and having only four hours behind me, and a working day ahead. No. Having early nights is an impossibility for me - just not built that way. I can't remember when I would last have had one. It must be years, if not decades.

You write wonderfully, dear heart. I love the way you bring things in, suggest them without really going into them, yet say so much. A true delight. Thank you.

x

Shari Sunday said...

I could smell the coffee and the wood smoke and feel the chill and the satisfaction of quiet time in the ealy morning. It sounds wonderful.

Nancy said...

Yes, I think our mornings are very similar. Yours starts earlier than mine, as most of my writing is at night - late. But I love to read in the morning, and my laptop is my best friend these days.

I loved the last paragraph - terrific writing.

Susan said...

Ruthie, you are the only person I know who could make waking up too early sound like something to be desired! I enjoy early morning peacefulness and quiet when I'm able to think coherently...I just wish they didn't start SO early some days!

♥ Kathy said...

Sounds like a good day to me :)

Montag said...

I read your journal and found my name! That was a pleasant surprise this Friday morning, Nov. 20 2009.

I don't know if I read incessantly, but I remember stories and films - structured stories - pretty well...like when you mentioned Brideshead the other day and I immediately remembered Lord Marchmain's discussion of his meeting with his son, Bridey's, finacee, Berryl, the widow of the Admiral who collected matchboxes.
So I can see equisitely Lawrence Olivier as Lord Marchmain pondering the meaning of Beryll's jests.
Of course, I've read the book 3 times and seen the film as often.

Anyway, enough of my narcissism.
I found your story to be poignant. I especially like how you create a tapestry ( literallY! I am not speaking metaphorically.) of your day, using the daily events as a weft interlaced into the warp of an undercurrent of hate and intolerance.

I myself find it immeasurably moving and pregnant with motifs foreshadowing tragedy...
It moves me immensely.
I think I shall study how you did it, take it apart, so to speak, because I find it an exceptionally effective way to tell a story which will have a great effect upon its readers - without being too preachy or pushy.

In other words, I am going to shamelessly steal the form from you. I hope I remember to give you credit in the future.

Ruth said...

My Boots, and I will wish I could be a fly on the wall in a few weeks in Gorinchem. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Little Anna, I was never a night owl, but I was not an early riser either. It was as foreign to me as to you. I would not encourage anyone to force themselves up earlier than they wish to get up. I am a firm believer in sleeping as much and as long as you possibly can. Sleep is such a wonder of rectitude! Physically, emotionally, mentally. So if you were to get up early, before your time, and you weren't ready in all those ways for your day - that would be misery!

Thank you for your kind words, dear one. I will explain something to Montag shortly. You can listen in.

Ruth said...

Hi, Shari, welcome to my mornings in Michigan. You would never think of having a fire burning in Florida. More's the pity! But you have other enjoyments. Like tropical birds.

Ruth said...

Hi, Nancy, my belief is that we need time for digestion. "We" always did. But now more than ever, while information gets poured on us like feathery freight trains, or ironclad ones, whichever, I don't think we can humanly maintain equilibrium unless we find time for reflection. THIS BLOG is my salvation! It's where I come to synthesize my thoughts about the world and myself in it, and then I read how you do the same at yours in very similar ways, and then in the comment interactions - I am so grateful for all of it!

Ruth said...

Susie Q! My dear, 3:30 is too early, and you and I know it. I am very fortunate to have days when I can relax like this one I described. It makes all the difference in my hectic job and allows me to cope. A lot of people don't have that luxury, and I recognized it especially yesterday when I was down about something at work, had to get out for a coffee and just left for an hour and read Phillip Larkin poetry at Starbucks! Now spring semester is going to be a different story . . .

Ruth said...

♥ Kathy, you caught me - it was an entire day like this! Well, until I made supper.

Ruth said...

Holy freeholy, Montag, you are definitely a mnemonist (which I had to look up the other day before leaving it on my smart friend Loring's blog). I just remember a blur of Anthony Andrews, a teddy bear, a little of Irons, and not much else. Oh, and a lot of pleasant evenings watching it.

Thank you for the very kind words. From you they weigh so much I have to sit down. Oh wait, I'm already sitting down in that same chair.

Ok, so I'll confess to you, since you want to shamelessly steal the form, that you will be a thief once removed. I stole it from Ann Claycomb's piece, and I'll link it: "WQED, Channel 13: Programming Guide". I was so taken with it myself, that I studied hers and created this one.

I should have put a postscript on the post referencing her. I remember in one poetry class Diane Wakoski talked about using a form - even a specific poem - and imitate it for your own. Like the painting students at the Louvre who copy works of art. What's wonderful is that you and I will come up with utterly distinct works (unlike the Louvre copies), and no one is the wiser. But I absolutely have to give Ann credit for this inspiration.

And now, fellow thief - or rather imitator-flatterer - we shall see what you record, with great pleasure.

Montag said...

Regardless of the provenance, it is stunning. You are a good study.

Once you imitate something, you change it and make it your own. You liberate from the matrix of its past history, and move forward with it into the future.

Like Marcel Duchamp's "3 Standard Stoppages" :
taking 3 pieces of thread and holding them in a state of rest, he lets them fall and twist and turn. When they come to rest, he copies their outline, and they are his new yard sticks or meters, convolutions and all.

It is chaos and creation; from a straight meter of thread comes something new, and - eventually - very unpredictable.

julie king said...

i love this form very much, ruth! i enjoyed reading about you in 3rd person, knowing all the while that i was reading about you telling of your day. so nice!

Deborah said...

Such a wonderful description of a perfect morning. I enjoyed that very much, Beth.

Arti said...

What you describe here is quite like what I do... after midnight with everyone asleep. Ever nocturnal, that's when I enjoy quiet hours of solitude... but with no wood stove, no coffee. Thanks for sharing another idyllic vignette of your life on the farm. I can hear the wood cracking and smell the coffee...

Ruth said...

Montag, Duchamp's threads are terrific examples of how perceptions change with perspective. Thank you for showing me that (I looked it up at MoMA).

I wonder if you have seen Robert Kelly's poem "Mont Blanc" - written INTO Shelley's poem of the same name. He added his own text between Shelley's words, coming up with a new work.

I also think of the myth of Narcissus and Echo - Echo is cursed to only repeat what she hears, yet with her clips of repetition, she manages to change the meaning.

Narcissus: "Who's here?"
Echo: "Here."

Ruth said...

Thank you, Julie!

Ruth said...

Thank you, Deborah. I hope you are doing well, I've been thinking about you.

Ruth said...

Arti, I'm glad you have that time, alone. You have so much to say, and you need quiet time to reflect.

Deborah said...

And I'm sorry I slipped up and called you 'Beth'!!! Apologies.

shicat said...

Hi Ruth, I just wanted to say that I just loved this post. Mornings are wonderful,it is my favorite part of the day.
Your mom's routine was more than interesting.

Jeanie said...

Oh, I love this! Unexpected early mornings, lots of thoughts. Great format -- I must check that guide out! (And glad you wrote on Paris again!)

Oliag said...

...so many things to comment on!

1. I've GOT to start getting up earlier:)

2. I drink coffee for the flavor rather than the caffeine too..

3. I will be reading that NewYorker article in about 4 months:)...always love the food issue...and yes I have some OCD issues...

4. I try not to read any bad comments about President Obama...I'm very good at denial...I just love getting all my news from Jon Stewart:)

5. I've always wanted a red leather chair...bright red...

6. I usually don't need my lap blankee if I have my lap top keeping me warm..

7. I never realized I could actually have 8 tabs open at one time:)...

8. I am a very slow reader...I could never read all that you do in one morning...

9. Even with all the crisis in the world I would enjoy reading about your eating "food of the Gods"...

10. Loved reading your post:)

xo
Gail

Ruth said...

Deborah, no worries, I rather liked it. :)

Ruth said...

Cathy, thank you.

My mother was a universe.

Ruth said...

Oh dear, Jeanie, save up your francs if you're going to go down the Michelin path. Well, I guess you don't have to go to a 3-star. A 1- or 2-star is plenty great too. Well, now I think about it, gas station food is good in Paris.

Ruth said...

Oliag, my dear! Wow, I love that listy!

As for the NYer, I swear I won't renew this time. I go through this cycle every so many years. The unread ones pile up. Once a week is just too frequent!

Thank you for wanting to read about the godly food eating experiences. I'll think about that.

Pat said...

sounds like a good day.

I don't get up that early that's for sure - but I don't go to bed till midnight! Before I started going to water aerobics every morning (M-F), I would sit around and be on the computer for at least 2 hours before I showered.

Ruth said...

Pat, I spend more than that. You are very disciplined to go to water aerobics, that's wonderful.

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