Rise and Shine
What do we see when we look at life with the eyes of the morning? Do you see possibility, angels, and the magic of a new day?
I see the spectacle of morning with emotions which an angel might share,” enthused Ralph Waldo Emerson (like his fellow transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, a classic morning person). “For what human ill,’ asked Thornton Wilder, “does not dawn seem to be an alleviation?” For morning people, the early hours aren’t just a time of day—they’re a state of mind. At no other time before or after is it possible to feel quite so alive, or quite so good.
Of course, not everybody feels this way. History is as full of impassioned morning haters as it is with morning lovers. In his book T"he Devil’s Dictionary," Ambrose Bierce defined dawn as the hour “when men of reason go to bed.” In ancient China, one morning-challenged mandarin is said to have hated getting up so much that he ordered his servants to wake him up several times each morning just so he could turn over and go back to sleep.
Whether you love it or hate it, morning boils down to one all-important moment: that instant when our eyes pop open and we move from the world of sleep and dreams into the larger light of day. To wake up is to cross a threshold, and like all such crossings it carries with it the opportunity to see the place one is leaving and the place one is entering with a clarity that is available at no other time.
What do we see when we look at life with the eyes of the morning? Possibility. Most people—even some non-morning folk—have experienced those magical mornings when we awake with a feeling that we are, somehow, more than the people we were when we went to bed the night before. On such mornings not only do we ourselves feel different; everything around us feels that way too. All is charged with meaning and promise, as if we have really and truly been born into a new and larger world.
The poet Elizabeth Bishop describes this kind of morning in her poem “Anaphora.”
Such white-gold skies our eyes
first open on, such brilliant walls
that for a moment we wonder
“Where is the music coming from
The day was meant for what
we must have missed?”
But, of course, this feeling doesn’t last. As non-morning people would be the first to point out, no matter how vivid this certainty of being born into a new world might be for a moment or two, it never stays that way. Though we might feel, as another contemporary poet, Richard Wilbur, put it, that “the morning air is all awash with angels,” soon enough we come to our senses, and the day—the ordinary day, with all its usual cares and routines—descends upon us. The new world vanishes, and we find ourselves in the same old one we’ve always been in.