There is something about the pre-dawn hours, some natural magic out there that always enchants me. I stare through the kitchen window at outlines, trying to separate myself from exactly what they represent. It’s more fun to simply sail on the garden’s silhouette sea.
Long slivers of light emanate from the distant glow of the alley’s security lamp, which highlights the new, curvy wooden alley door seventy feet south of the kitchen.
The big secret garden fountain, which dominates the area in daylight, seems slightly blurred and insubstantial in the dark. The clean pool water surrounding its base is utterly still. A single pale, floating leaf appears to be eerily suspended.
The cool, still air is thick with anticipation, with promise, with scents that only a garden can create. An open window over the sink invites them to waft into this room to mingle with the rich aroma of Eight O’clock coffee and freshly grilled bacon.
In springtime the energy emanating from the damp earth is almost palpable as my perennials push up through softened soil, impatiently waiting for Nature’s signal that it’s safe to display their glory. But now, in mid-summer, I sense a Pause, as though the garden were thoughtful; it is the apogee of the season, when growing things are exactly between coming up and going down. It is the beginning of Mother Earth’s slow, inexorable exhale.
The tall, sheltering wall, vined and solid, like the one featured in the story of ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter’ (a brief, but frightening fantasy penned by the dour Victorian writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne), separates me from the unpredictability of the less ordered world that exists outside my garden’s gates.
A black wraith-like cat silkily glides along the fence’s flat-board top; the creature’s head and long back form a nearly horizontal line finished with an exclamatory tail. It smoothly traverses the long, high planks, confident that his claws, youth and speed are at their apex. Full of hunter-lust, he soundlessly patrols the territory below.
I let myself out. There is no moon. No breeze. Just occasional cries or rustlings, as sleep-thick, light-responsive birds shift position in snug, still dark nests. That nearly invisible feline notes the most interesting sounds, and moves closer to investigate.
My eye catches a tiny movement; it’s a mouse, standing alert in a newly weeded bed, nose twitching, whiskers at attention, probably smelling the cat nearby and high. His nose knows where not to wander. He begins to move in short bursts among the forest of huge lily stalks, foraging for mousie morsels, careful to keep owl-radar from locking onto his small body. Enormous hosta leaves and house-shadow function as shields.
In the alley there’s a scream; the neighborhood owl has snatched a life to fuel another life, as the world turns.
Birds begin to tune up; their songs enhance the dawn and lift my heart. Seagulls shriek roughly as they fly high scouting for breakfast. Their presence always signifies that a large body of water lies nearby.
All my life I’ve loved the coo of mourning doves; now their soft melody floats through the fresh, crisp morning air. I hear my late mother’s voice. “They’re saying, ‘I love you...you, you’…”
Light begins to creep powerfully over the landscape, crisply defining colors and shapes. Car and screen doors open and close in our alley, human sounds that signify the start of a workday morning. A bicycle wheel’s whirr faintly shifts the air.
With a flick of my finger, my garden fountains power up and burble gently.
My coffee is cold; I’d gotten lost in thought, in sounds, in Quiet. It’s time now to center myself, organize the nascent day into minutes and hours- time to make plans.
A fresh new day, with no mistakes, has begun.