When I lie awake at 4:00 am, the only sound I hear is the low-pitched rumble of a motor. I think it is the motor on our neighbor’s spa. There are no bird sounds, so cars, and no sirens.
What I could do, at 4:00 am, is get up, open up the house and set the fans in the windows, pulling in the cool morning air in an attempt to keep the house cooler once the sun comes up. I could do that. I don’t. After a few minutes, I fall back to sleep.
At 5:00 am the birds awaken me. First it’s the mockingbird, beginning its call. Sometimes, not always, it is joined by a couple of towhees. Not this morning; the mockingbird is a soloist for quite a while. I have read that the male mockingbird calls during this time because the female is sitting on eggs, and the male is warning predators that there is one badass mockingbird not afraid to take them on.
Around 5:30 the crows start. Crows are… how can I put this politely? Exuberant, but not melodic. They light in the big redwood tree and the sycamore directly behind the house. They caw and mumble. One particular call is common this time of morning; five caws in rapid-fire sequence, pause, five more. Some mornings I hear a distant response, five rapid caws. Checking in? I watched one of the neighborhood crows one day when he found a big scrap of a sandwich and a spilled soft drink on the asphalt. He sat on the streetlight and called, six or seven caws. He waited. He didn’t fly down and attack the food. A few moments later two other crows joined him and they flew down together to rip the soggy bread apart.
The alarm goes off at 6:50. Usually it’s music. This morning I did not get lucky; it was an advertisement for a restaurant. I have choices. I can turn it off completely and go back to sleep. I can hit Snooze. I can get up. At 6:50 there are neighborhood noises, sometimes; cars, garage doors laboring open. Once in a while the neighbor’s cat yowls to be let in, loudly enough that we can hear her next door.
Today I get up, for two reasons. The first is that it’s already warm and light, not truly conducive to more sleep. The second is that I am trying to be faithful to a routine that includes writing in the morning.
If I choose the first option and go back to sleep, I have one more back-up system out in the world. About eight o’clock, the Canada geese fly over on their way to the park. They sound like a tuba-and-saxaphone band tuning up – guaranteed to conduct me into the world of wakefulness.