It is still dark, but it is a darkness I know well, the darkness of night about to yield to morning. This is my favorite time, a time of exquisite solitude, the kind of solitude that has nothing to do with loneliness. It will not stretch dangerously on and on for hours, like the solitude of late night, luring me into sadness. The dark before dawn is limited; it knows its time is short. Anything can happen.
Nobody telephones. Once in a while somebody emails from Europe, and invitations arrive frequently to buy shoes, meet single people over fifty, rent property on Sanibel Island or increase the length and longevity of an organ I do not possess, but these are easily dispatched. For the most part, I am gloriously alone.
For many years, this time was dependably mine, every day. It was fine with me to be one of the handful of Americans who had never seen Letterman, Saturday Night Live, Seinfeld or The Tonight Show -- if something I needed to know about should happen to occur on one of these shows, I could read about it in the paper. Later on, I could even watch it on my computer if I cared to do so.
Lately, though, I have been missing from my own reveries in the wee hours. Sleep has clung to me and refused to let go. I have murmured reassuring things to myself about needing my rest, but still I have mourned this loss of a treasure that may not have seemed valuable to others (So just write at some other time -- what difference does it make when you do it? ) but was precious to me.
Suddenly, though, my delicious dark mornings are back. I sit in the comfortable chair in the office that will soon cease to be mine, the window open to the pregnant silence outside. Sometimes I play music and sometimes I don't. Always I wait for the first song of the first bird, remembering how the rooster's crow used to wake me when I was a girl, how the waking dogs and cows came next, how it daily a symphony it was, as dependable as the beating of my own heart, something I never even thought about in those days.
Things change. Some of them disappear from our lives. Sometimes we see it coming and sometimes we don't. Sometimes we cause the change ourselves and sometimes it is visited upon us. Some change is temporary and some is permanent, two concepts that are meaningful only here, in our world of ticking clocks and the rapidly-turning pages of calendars. All the changes we see, those we welcome and those we resist with everything in us, are earthly. They bruise only us, and they only bruise us here. In a life where everything that has ever been still is, where all that will be already is, nothing is lost. This is the timelessness of God. Spend enough time thinking about it, and you begin not to be as frightened by the thought of entering it as you once were. Spend even more time, and your entry will be imperceptible -- to you, at least -- because almost all of you will already be there.