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Leisure • Small Pleasures

Up at Dawn

5:45 am on a summer’s morning. You’ve woken early. It’s still outside. The sun hasn’t quite risen yet. Normally, you’d be sleeping right through this. You’re reconnecting with your life. Somewhere a solitary lorry rumbles away.

The forecast says it’s going to be hot later. All the real brightness and warmth is still beyond the horizon. But it’s on its way. It’s started to turn the lower clouds orange and make the sky, in that direction, pink and pale purple. The bottom clouds look like they are floating in a golden sea. If you haven’t seen it for a while, you forget how impressive it looks. Every single morning some version of this happens, though you are almost always asleep when it does.


In the kitchen, a few last remains of yesterday. The argument you had last night feels far away. Why did it matter? Dawn is the world’s reminder to let yesterday go. When everyone else is asleep the house feels like it is just yours. You can remember why you like it.

Last night in here it was quite tense while you were cooking dinner. Your partner was giving you a hard time, at least you thought they were. No one else is going to be up for ages. You’ve got the place to yourself. It looks different at this hour. The magical square of early sunlight on the wall makes you think of childhood. You on Sunday mornings, when your parents had a lie in, you’d sneak down and steal biscuits. It felt like going for an adventure – in your own home.

You can hear the birds, now. Later the human world will drown them out. Overnight a snail has been made a momentous journey from the window-sill to a potted geranium. At dawn you notice things that are get missed in the rush of the day. There are parts of yourself that get missed too. More delicate, more wondering. You’ve been missing the version of yourself that you only meet at this time.

You head out to pick up a few things from a local shop. The air feels blissfully fresh. And it’s quiet. The usual roar of traffic from the main road hasn’t started. There’s a brief flap of wings as a bird rises from a nearby tree. You can hear a clear, high pitched bird call and another very different one, more hollow and warm. The details of the natural world so easily escape our notice.


You see a tranquil beauty in the tower block you’ve always rather disliked up to now. You feel friendly towards a man with cropped grey hair who is noisily stacking shopping baskets and boxes of bananas outside the supermarket. There’s someone walking their dog. Like you – at least today – a voluntary early riser; they’ve chosen to be here. You don’t know anything else about them, except this one thing which, at the moment, seems important. You almost say hello. Maybe another time, you will. You stroll across the road – usually you have to wait for the lights and scurry over. You’ve got time to watch the clouds shed their pink tones and take on their normal smudged appearance. At this hour, it’s a little easier to think well of the world. The city looks serene and elegant. You feel calm and a little proud of yourself for being here now.

You have a burst of energy for things you often don’t want to face. You map out the pros and cons of a career move on a big sheet of paper; you look through some old family photographs and send a long email to your mother; you pay a couple of annoying bills online and get them out of the way; you cook yourself a good breakfast of scrambled eggs.  


It’s strange: all available time is in truth limited. You can’t make there be twenty five hours in the day. Yet now it does feel like you are in possession of an extra slice of existence; it’s always been there, but you’ve only just found it. Time could be re-arranged: there are plenty of things that can contribute to leading a life more like the one we want. We could get new chances. Every day, it happens. And every day you have the chance to be again the person you are just now in the very early morning.  

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