Archive for the ‘morning’ Category

Internet curfew is a GOOD thing

August 16, 2011

I hate it when illness robs me of the dawn and of pre-dawn slumber, as it did yesterday. Making it up for it today, though, with school back in session and alarms about to go off all over the house. The peace and quiet of 5 a.m. is at a premium once again. It’s 64 with no sun in sight.

The enforced discipline of the “mechanical servitor” (Thoreau’s version of an alarm clock, or a rooster) and the school-bell is a good thing, despite the hard transition from summer it imposes. You can’t scoff at the clock at night without paying in the morn.

I’d already decided to commence the new academic year with a self-imposed 9 pm Internet curfew. Then I learned of GOOD’s latest challenge, to unplug at 8 pm. I’m up for it, and not just ’til September either. It feels like a sane response to the information inundation (and idea deficit) people like Neal Gabler have been protesting lately, and it’ll get me to the dawn post on time. Maybe even stimulate some ideas.

Follow your bliss, something will happen

July 12, 2011

Up with the sun at 5:41 this morning and it’s already a steam bath out  here.  Tempted to haul the Toshiba back indoors.

But on the other hand, yesterday’s counsel (@advicetowriters) from the late mythologist and hero-ennobler/enabler Joseph Campbell has reinvigorated my commitment to the dawn as my sacred place.

You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.

That’s so wise. A sacred hour when I don’t know what’s in the news or the Twitterverse and can just open a channel from the subconscious to the keyboard and the page is exactly what I must honor. Every day.

And to symbolize that renewed commitment, a new masthead image of the dawn. That’s Radnor Lake, “Nashville’s Walden” without the tourists, long one of my own most reliable incubators. Like this very hour.

“Determine never to be idle”

June 3, 2011

5:32 today-the solstice impends. Again, an ideal 72 degrees on its way to another August day in June.  Like HDT I feel sorry for those who’ve lost their subscription tickets to morning.

Still thinking about spontaneity. William James advised teachers to trust theirs, after painstaking preparation. Habit being the great fly-wheel, effective spontaneity must  be suitably circumscribed. Fly, but don’t just fly off. Settled routines are crucial to creative novelty and perceptive surprise. The fresh dawn and its dispensations  come only to those who get up for them.

I think that’s what Mr. Jefferson was telling his daughter when he said:

Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any.

Time wastes too fast, in other words. I just finished the great Maira Kalman’s terrific book And the Pursuit of Happiness, based on her blog series of the same name. Lots of creative novelty there, clearly rooted not only in spontaneous expression but also in a steady work ethic. Regular people don’t leave their brilliance to chance.

But, try explaining that to a restless teenager nowadays. I tell Older Daughter not to be idle, she tells me I’m boring. (I’ll bet Patsy wouldn’t have dared to say that to her Dad.)

She’s supposed to get her Learner’s Permit today, we’ll see how her version of spontaneity works out for her on the driving exam.

Live-blogging the dawn on a perfect morning in June

June 2, 2011

I was actually up and in place for the dawn this morning at 5:33 a.m., out on the patio under open sky in 72 lovely degrees, birds singing (cicadas still sleeping), Moleskine and laptop and sensibility wide open to a universe of possibilities. To be awake is to be alive, after all.

Now it’s 5:45, I’ve scratched some notes in the notebook and identified several possible topics of interest to try and engage spontaneously. “Let your fingers do the talking.”

But when you begin to think about all those possiblities it becomes hard to select just one “spontaneously.” There will be other mornings of course, and there’s always the day-blog. But Older Daughter, always quick to declare “I’m bored,” has been campaigning for more spontaneity in our lives. She was on about that again last night at our family birthday celebration for Younger Daughter (the PF Chang’s tasted great but was not less filling), so I think I’ll think some more this morning about spontaneity. Is that the secret of life? Or at least one of the winning strategies against ennui?

It’s now 5:50 a.m. I’ve spontaneously reflected my way to this topic in twenty minutes, it’s still 72 out here, a small flock of honking geese just flew by. Hey Older Daughter: this is not boring. Not to me.

5:54. (That was my experiment in live-blogging the dawn.)

I’m going to take my topics for a walk with the dogs now, we’ll see if any of them mature or if they evaporate under the roiling rising sun.


It’s always dawn somewhere

May 7, 2011

I was up at dawn today, grading. (They’re posted now, and I’ve gone fishin‘.)

But it’s never too late to enjoy the sunrise. “Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me,” etc. (HDT)

“The best way to begin each day well…” Nietzsche said that?!

May 4, 2011

“The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.” I doubted that Nietzsche really said that, it sounds so cute and chirpy. But there it is in Human, all too human,  aphorism #580.

And then there’s #589, a real shocker.

First thought of the day.— The best way to begin each day well is: upon awakening, to think about whether we cannot bring pleasure to at least one person on this day. If this could count as a substitute for the religious habit of prayer, our fellow human beings would gain an advantage from the change.

I can say unequivocally, though, that #539 is just wrong (or at least wrong for our students to believe, here in the midst of final exam week):

 Youth is an unpleasant period; for then it is not possible or not prudent to be productive in any sense whatsoever.

My big challenge this week is to remember how to be a productive grader while also sick. Where is that other Nietzschean gem, again, about being made stronger by whatever doesn’t kill you?

ready or not

January 3, 2011

School begins again this morning, not for me but for the girls, and as their driver that means my alarm sounded too. Shocking how quickly an interrupted routine like rising before dawn can rust and seize up, under the seduction of winter break. We really do become the characters we train ourselves to be. So,  now I must re-train myself once again to be the whip-snapping, clock-minding morning commandant.

My new 2011 page-a-day helpfully reminds me of Aristotle’s old wisdom: “What we learn to do we learn by doing.” Of course. Older Daughter’s driving lesson yesterday went well, that reminds me. She did several competent turns around the Baptist Church parking lot, after the congregants scattered for lunch. Not too fast, with barely a lurch, and she stopped smartly on a dime. “Nothing to it”, she beamed. And I just kept remembering the day before yesterday, or so, when she was doing her turns in that lot on two wheels.

Up and at ’em, up again old heart. Sigh.

sic transit

August 19, 2010

The other hard transition here is to the school-day routine. I returned from my rambling New England sojourn to the frenetic morning hustle & bustle summer seduces us into forgetting. No more sleeping “late,” no more long and leisurely dawn reflections while the household slumbers. I am again a breakfast facilitator, time management supervisor, and taxi driver. And that’s just for their school routine, mine begins next week.

But I’m not really complaining. Just wondering who’s going to manage and supervise my own fleeting time. Guess it’ll have to be me.


June 22, 2010

We’re under a “dangerous heat/air quality” advisory here again today, the high will be 98 and it’ll feel like 110– not a desert dry heat but a wet, sticky, drippy, “muggy” (as we always said in the midwest) sauna sort of day. Incessant and unrelenting, the atmospheric equivalent of a vuvuzella. (There’s an app now, you know, and a very popular one too. Fortunately the iPhone speaker is inaudible.)

Speaking of South Africa, the high in Cape Town today will be in the mid-60s. It’s winter in the southern hemisphere, and it’s loud. Amazing how people can get so worked up over a game that so typically ends in a 0-0 or 1-1 draw.

The primitive”We’re #1″ tribal nationalism sometimes on display in these matches is obnoxious, though of course you don’t have to go to FIFA to find that– it’s right next door under the big orange “T” flag, and behind the blue “Titans” decal. (We’ll leave the Redbirds out of this discussion.)

If you’re going to glom yourself onto an arbitrary association to die for, I suppose it’s marginally more evolved that it be for a nation than for a team whose school you don’t even attend or a corporation you don’t work for.

Truth is, I like the world’s version of futbol a lot more than I like ours. And the Pythons’ version. (Are you there, Mary? Ready to begin our collaborative essay on baseball vs. football? Have you listened to George Carlin yet?)

Also: the over-the-top dramatic pretending-to-be-injured histrionics are just silly.


I do love the color and spirit of it all, the pre-game handshakes and post-gamejersey exchanges, and in general just the deep passionate intensity. The key is to transfer that depth of caring to things that do matter. If we could give just a fraction of that kind of focus to the health and well-being of our children, education, the environment, the future… now there’s a summer dream/fantasy for you.

I do love summer. Especially this time of day.

in recovery

June 17, 2010

Official sunrise today was 5:30, I didn’t quite make it. But the sun’s still below the tree-line horizon so I’m not late by near-summer solstice standards. It’s about 70 degrees, dry and pleasant, not at all the steambath it’ll be, again, this afternoon.

As old Henry said, it’s hard not to pity those who’ve relinquished their subscription tickets to morning in this world. Most of them don’t know what they’re missing. I know I’m only missing a little extra sleep, which is nothing to the dawn. I’ll sleep you know when.

But enough idle chat about the weather. I’m really wondering this morning what it is about childhood that is compelling enough to warrant another book or course or post. What is it in this topic that compels my own compounding interest?

Short answer: there are qualities of  early youthfulness, observable in actual children, occasionally even retrievable from  the dungeons of personal memory, that make life worth living.  The adult world often seems  conspiratorially, cynically, heartlessly arranged to squash those qualities. We need them back.

That’s my working thesis.

Those qualities, off the top of my caffeinating head as Sol tops the trees, include:  adventurousness, curiosity, playfulness, spontaneity, trust… What else?

Then there are other qualities, mostly missing from childhood (and from the childish adulthood of so many of us) of which we’re much too careless. We all need those too, and if we don’t begin to get them in childhood we may never. Skepticism, commitment to reality, recognition that fantasy and fun are not always sufficient unto the day, sobriety, total honesty… in many instances these must be taught and learned, and re-learned, and re-inforced.

I’m interested in what we can learn from childhood, and in what we owe to children. I wonder: in what ways must we grow up? In what ways must we stay forever young?

I’m concerned that we do kids a personal disservice, and do humanity an irrecoverable injury, when we ignore and withhold these lessons.  My faith and hope , if I may co-opt those terms, is that writing about this is a step in the direction of recovery and maturity. We’ll see.