I love the world in the mornings, before everyone is about and active. Making coffee in houses while everyone is asleep, walking through a city while they clean the streets and the scent of bread or croissants baking fills the air and there are few cars on the road…
I used to sit on a rock step outside my house on the side of the Andes, cup in hand, breakfast balanced on my knee or on the ground, and watch the sky and the crag as I got ready for the day. It was beautiful and it gave me the mental space that I needed to be grounded and calm.
in Bogotá, friends would show up at my house at 4:30 or 5:00 and we would run through the rain-washed streets, as stars gave way to a glow at the edge of the mountains. We would step through a tunnel beneath the circumvalar and come out into our forest, ready to run up our mountain. Hours later, on the way back, we would be hit by the cacophony of a fully awakened city, and it took sheer force of will to hold onto that calm caused by the cool sensation of awakening during that run through the trees up the mountainside.
In Jamaica, my running mates would arrive at 4:15. I would roll out of bed and into my running gear, before allowing the scents and sensations of that early morning air to massage my senses. I was ready to be cold, often even wearing a jacket (until we started running), but the Caribbean breezes did little to move that warm, thick air that wraps itself around every piece of you. At that time of day you don’t even want coffee – that would come later, after a shower, while padding through the apartment full of energy and contentment as outside the first stirrings of the capital made themselves heard.
Even at my fieldwork site, when not woken up by the fighting cock (more on him in a different post), I would head off to walk through the sand and the briar patches, in order to spend some time by myself doing some form of physical activity. At the top of a nearby hill I would do a core workout and hope that the men of the nearby hamlet were still sleeping off their chirinche induced hangovers, so that I could enjoy the sunrise and jog home unmolested.
While out hiking, the morning shows you what the rest of the day is going to be like. You can sense it in the air, what will come today…and then the scent of coffee or porridge cooking on the stove mingles with the sharpness of pines, or the heady heat waiting to be released by the sand, or the earthiness of rocks and cold edge that snow adds to the mix…muscles stretch as you wait for the camp to stir and stand looking out over the terrain. A loon might call out of the mist if it is a kayaking trip, or parrots screech as they clatter through the foliage of the Amazon rainforest.
I love the world in the mornings, and I think this is why I have been stressed so much lately, because this kind of ritual is not such a part of my life at the moment. This morning I had my coffee, read about financial crime, and glanced at the day’s headlines while Broadcasting House played in the background. Wrapped in my favourite hoody (that is rapidly degenerating into the ‘not to be used in public’ stage of wear and tear), I felt calm. The sun was slowly warming against my back, plants were breathing air into the house, I could choose what came next. There was no need to multitask.
My friend Alison has said before that I visit them to escape and show up with my hair sticking up with energy then slowly relax before running back to the city – I suppose that would be whichever city was playing host at the time. What I have wanted is to create my own space where I have that oasis of calm in my life. A place to call home, that I can enjoy and feel welcome in, and where I can welcome others. But equally, I want those mornings. I want to be out meeting the city, learning its secrets and taking in the sounds of its early layers, before all the others are superimposed. I want to get out into the mountains and forests, I want to wake up and prepare my thermos of coffee over my stove, before hiking/biking/running on through the dew covered grasses.