Those Little Pieces of Heaven
You might not be a morning person. I never thought I would be but for many years now, if I happen to sleep in until 7am, I feel like I've missed out. I like the long dark of winter mornings, and then when spring eases in, slowly, as it does at latitude 53, I like watching the sun rise, earlier and earlier. I love my morning rituals, writing in my diary, drinking coffee, staring out my study window. Morning, as W.S. Graham says, is something I put on, and I feel like something is missing when I don't have time to witness its arrival.
Listen. Put on morning.
Waken into falling light.
- W.S. Graham
There’s a poem by William Stafford titled “Any Morning,” and in it he talks about “Just lying on the couch and being happy.” The people who might judge you for doing so are still asleep, and now is the time, he says, to pick up and save those little pieces of Heaven that are “left lying around.” It’s easy to do because:
People won't even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.
I don’t usually have a shift at the library until 11am, and often I work in the evenings. So the mornings in the suburbs are mine. Those who are going to work have gone, and those who stay home seem to mostly remain indoors, though there are a few regular characters that roam. My radius is approximately five kilometers.
I sling my old Nikon around my neck and walk out into the suburbs along with Ace, our black lab. I'm very good at lying on the couch, but I have also developed an obsession with looking, looking, looking, walking. I try to photograph instants. I am a student of the instant, of morning in the suburbs. I am on the lookout for those little pieces of heaven, scattered everywhere, and particularly abundant in the morning.
There’s a poem by Billie Collins titled, “Morning” which begins, “Why do we bother with the rest of the day.” And I’ve often felt the same. Those things that I discover and notice and photograph in the morning stay with me all day. The Collins poems ends with an image I find so staggeringly beautiful. He notices: “the lawn steaming like a horse.” It’s something we’ve all seen on certain mornings, the lawn steaming. And maybe you’ve seen a steaming horse. I have. And so the conflation of these two brings me such joy.
“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning,” said Meister Eckhart way back in the 14th century and it's in the morning that I find it's easiest to have the joy and enthusiasm of the beginner.
In Straw for the Fire, Theodore Roethke notes this: “How are you this morning? - the eternal question.”
How you are in the morning is how you are all day, how you are your whole life. In the morning I believe in magic and I feel creative and powerful. I feel like I am on the edge of wonderful things. I feel like I could walk into other worlds, and sometimes, in my writing, I even do.
I'll end today, with these words, also by Roethke:
"The feeling that one is on the edge of many things: that there are many worlds from which we are separated by only a film; that a flick of the wrist, a turn of the body another way will bring us to a new world. It is more than a perpetual expectation: yet sometimes the sense of richness is haunting: it is richness and yet denial, this living a half a step, as it were, from what one should be. The valleys are always green, but only the eyes, never the feet, are there...The feeling is always with us, but most in the middle morning."